Next thing you know, all of the villagers have packed the city square of Florin to await the revealing of Prince Humperdinck's new bride-to-be, Princess Buttercup. In order to hide Buttercup's commoner background, they make up a title for her and call her the Princess of Hammersmith.
The crowd gasps when they see what a beautiful and distinguished young lady Buttercup is.
Meanwhile, we learn that there is a man dressed completely in black who is watching from the top of a nearby building while Buttercup walks among the crowds. The dude definitely seems pretty ominous.
After meeting all of the commoners, Buttercup takes a ride on her horse out into the countryside to get some air and relax. While riding, she comes upon three strange men, and one of them steps forward and asks if there is any town nearby. Buttercup says no, but then the guy smiles and says good, because no one will hear her scream. And just like that, the men kidnap her off her horse and knock her out.
Buttercup wakes up hours later lying in the bottom of a boat. She overhears the men talking and realizes that they plan on killing her, so she makes a jump for it and hops into the river. The head bad guy, called the Sicilian, threatens to cut himself and pour his blood into the water to attract sharks. Buttercup thinks he's bluffing, but once he starts cutting himself, she gives up and returns to the boat.
Now that they've got the princess back, the three kidnappers sail straight for the Cliffs of Insanity, which as you might imagine given their name, are some super steep cliffs. Buttercup doesn't know what's going on, since there's no way the four of them will be able to climb the cliffs.
One of the men informs the Sicilian that someone seems to be following them in a boat. The Sicilian finds this "inconceivable," since there's no way the people of Florin could already know Buttercup is missing. But lo and behold, there is someone following them in a boat, and he's gaining on them.
When they reach the Cliffs of Insanity, they go to a rope that travels all the way up the cliffs. Then they all grab onto the giant named Fezzik and he pulls all four of them up the cliff. All the while, the man behind them keeps gaining, and it's around this time that we realize that the man is the same masked man in black who was watching Buttercup back at the town square.
When they reach the top of the cliffs, the Sicilian cuts the rope, thus sending the man in black falling to his death halfway up. But to the Sicilian's shock, the man in black clings to the cliff and starts free climbing the rest of the way. The Sicilian takes off with Buttercup and the giant Fezzik, leaving behind the third man—who's called the Spaniard—to kill the man in black as soon as he reaches the top of the cliff.
The Spaniard is a good enough sport to let the man in black get all the way to the top before fighting him, since the Spaniard has supreme confidence in his abilities as a sword fighter. And while we wait for the man in black to reach the top, the author gives us the backstory of the Spaniard, whose real name is Inigo Montoya.
Growing up, Inigo had a father who was the greatest sword maker in all of Spain. But instead of advertising his skills, he decided to live a humble, secret life and make swords only when his friend Yeste came to him with a sword-making problem he couldn't solve. For this reason, it was Yeste who got all the glory as the best sword maker.
One day, though, Inigo's father decides to get out of the sword making game for good because he no longer feels like anything can challenge him. It's right around this time that a strange man knocks on his door and asks him directly for a sword. Inigo's father tries to play dumb and say he's just a regular sword maker, but the man won't relent. Finally, the stranger (who is a rich nobleman) holds out his hand and shows the man that he has six fingers. This peculiarity sets Domingo's heart racing, since he has never had such a great challenge as this one—design the perfect sword for a six-fingered man.
Domingo sets to work day and night for more than a year, struggling to perfect the six-fingered sword. The day finally comes when he presents it to the nobleman, but the nobleman is completely unimpressed and calls the sword a piece of garbage and turns to walk away. Domingo insults him for having no taste, and in a flash, the guy spins and kills Domingo.
Inigo totally loses his mind. He picks up the six-fingered sword and goes after the nobleman. But the nobleman is a gifted swordsman, and he quickly beats Inigo and gives him a slash on each of his cheeks to help him remember to treat noblemen with more respect. The dude then rides away and Inigo swears to devote his entire life to avenging his father's death while clutching the six-fingered sword.
From that point on, Inigo spends every waking moment learning how to become a better swordsman. After ten years of training, he returns to Yeste and asks him whether he thinks he (Inigo) is ready to fight the nobleman who killed his father.
They go to Yeste's courtyard and Yeste quizzes Inigo on various tactics. By the time it's all over, Yeste tells Inigo that he is too much driven by anger and impatience to ever be a master swordsman. However, he also says that Inigo is already beyond the skill of a master.
The next morning, Inigo sets out to find the nobleman who killed his father. He never thought it would be tough because the guy had six fingers, but after years of searching, he never finds the guy. That's when despair sets in and he becomes a drunk. And this is how he was when the Sicilian first discovered him in a bar, drinking away all the money he'd made in sword fighting contests. The Sicilian offered him a lucrative job as a mercenary and helped him sober up.
Okay. Now we're back at the edge of the cliff, with Inigo waiting for the man in black to reach the top. It takes way longer than Inigo expected, and he eventually becomes pretty impatient. The whole time, Inigo prays that the man in black is a good enough fencer to challenge him; it's been so long since he's felt challenged.
Inigo decides to start the duel left-handed to give the man a fighting chance. As the duel progresses, though, he realizes that the man in black is winning. That's when he switches to his better hand (his right) and turns the tables. But not so fast, because the man in black has also been fighting with his left hand, and he isn't left-handed either. So he switches to his right and eventually beats Inigo.
Inigo kneels down and waits for his death, but the man in black simply knocks him out and continues running after Buttercup, Fezzik (the giant), and the Sicilian.
Meanwhile, Fezzik looks back along the path he's running and sees that the man in black has beaten Inigo in a sword fight. He assumes that Inigo has been killed, which makes him very sad. The Sicilian is completely shocked that Inigo has been beaten, so he orders Fezzik to wait for the man in black while he (the Sicilian) and Buttercup keep running.
Fezzik waits behind a ledge and holds a huge rock over his head, waiting to crush the man in black with it. While he waits, the author gives us some backstory on Fezzik…
From the day he was born in the country of Turkey, Fezzik was a giant. By the time he reached kindergarten, he was the size of an adult and already shaving each morning. He was a fraidy-cat at heart, though, and it didn't take long for the smaller children in his school to realize that they could bully him all they wanted.
Fezzik's father hates seeing his son bullied, so he teaches Fezzik how to make a fist and defend himself. That's when his dad makes the mistake of ordering Fezzik to punch him. Next thing you know, Fezzik's dad is laid out with a broken jaw.
Fezzik's parents then decide that their son might make a lot of money if he quits school to become a professional wrestler. The guy has no technique at all, but before you know it, he's beating all of the champions of all the towns in Turkey.
Next thing you know, Fezzik is the "bad guy" in wrestling matches all across Europe and Asia because no one can beat him. It gets to the point that he has to face more than three other wrestlers at once just to make it a fair fight.
While touring, both of Fezzik's parents die, leaving him all alone in the world. He sits and mopes about his loneliness until the Sicilian finds him and offers him a job. Fezzik doesn't really care about the job, though—he's just happy to have some company.
And now we're back to Fezzik waiting for the man in black with a big rock lifted over his head. But when the man in black arrives, he dodges Fezzik's rock; next thing you know, the two of them are struggling in a fight. But the man in black is as slippery as a fish and he keeps getting away from Fezzik's grips.
The man in black manages to get onto Fezzik's back and choke him until he falls unconscious, and then the man in black rushes after the Sicilian and Buttercup.
But the Sicilian is waiting for him with a knife to Buttercup's throat. The man in black challenges him to a battle of wits, which the Sicilian readily accepts, since he believes himself to be the smartest man in the world.
The man in black asks the Sicilian to pour two glasses of wine. The man in black then takes both glasses behind his back and sets them back on the table, saying that one of them is filled with poison. He pushes one toward the Sicilian and the other he keeps for himself, and then he asks the Sicilian to choose between them.
The Sicilian goes through a really long reasoning process, which involves all kinds of bluffs, double bluffs, and yes, even triple bluffs. By the time he's done reasoning, he gets the man in black to turn around and switches the glasses without his knowing. They each then drink their glasses, and the Sicilian glories in the fact that he has clearly won. It's only a few seconds later, though, that he drops dead from the poison. Some victory.
Amazed, Buttercup asks the man in black how he knew the Sicilian would choose the poisoned wine. It turns out that both glasses of wine were poisoned, and the man in black has just spent years building his immunity to it. It's good to stay busy, we suppose.
The man in black doesn't have long to revel in his victory, though, since he realizes quickly that Prince Humperdinck has noticed Buttercup's absence and is quickly tracking her on his super fast white horses. It won't be long before he catches up, so the man in black and Buttercup start running.
They have to stop, though, when they reach a huge ravine. Here, the man in black asks Buttercup about whether she's ever been in love. He tries to make her admit that she loves no one and never has, but she swears eternal love for her dead Westley.
Some cannons go off from some nearby ships, which causes the man in black to look away for a second. Buttercup takes the chance to shove him down into the ravine. She shouts down after him that he can die for all she cares.
From the bottom of the ravine, the man in black lies hurt and answers her with "'As… you… wish…'" Gasp—that's what Westley always used to say to her.
Buttercup turns and stares down into the ravine, where the man in black removes his mask. It is Westley. Without thinking, Buttercup jumps into the ravine after him, tumbling until she's right beside him.
Meanwhile, we look in on Humperdinck, who is quickly piecing together everything that has happened in the last hundred pages. He looks at footprints and sees where the man in black fought with Inigo Montoya. He also sees where the man in black fought with the giant, although both Inigo and the giant have regained consciousness and are nowhere to be found. Finally, Humperdinck (and his buddy Count Rugen) comes across the dead Sicilian. He follows the trail into the ravine and sees the tracks lead straight into a dangerous place called The Fire Swamp. Uh-oh…
Westley has no idea that he's leading Buttercup into the Fire Swamp, though—all he knows is that he and Buttercup have to follow the ravine because Humperdinck will catch them if they take the time to climb back out.
Here, Goldman cuts back into the story again and says he can imagine how disappointed we must be that there's no dramatic reunion scene between Westley and Buttercup. He says that there's no scene like this in the original Morgenstern, but if we like, there's an address we can write to if we want to check out the scene he wrote for just this reason. He also gives us a web address to visit (princessbridebook.com), but unfortunately, this link doesn't lead anywhere. (Psst… Worry not, Goldman will explain why later in the book.)
But now that Westley and Buttercup are reunited, he has to tell her that they're trapped in the ravine and the only thing to do is follow where it leads. Eventually he smells the sulfur in the air and realizes that they're heading into the Fire Swamp, which is basically a swamp where creepy things live and flames randomly shoot out of the ground because of underground sulfur pockets. The people of Florin have told legends about what lurks inside it.
Meanwhile, Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen stand at the edge of the Fire Swamp on their horses and come to grips with the fact that Buttercup and her kidnapper have gone in.
Back to Westley and Buttercup now. Westley turns to say something to Buttercup, but only to see her disappear down into some Snow Sand, which is basically like quicksand but worse. He grabs a vine and dives in after her, and after no small amount of struggle, he manages to get both of them out.
Once they're out, Westley reveals why he's taking them through such a terrible place: On the other side of the swamp is the mouth of Giant Eel Bay, which is where his pirate ship is docked. It turns out that Westley is himself the Dread Pirate Roberts, the very guy who supposedly killed Westley three years ago on the high seas.
Westley then tells the story of how the original Dread Pirate Roberts captured him, but instead of killing him, the guy trained Westley to be his apprentice. The Dread Pirate Roberts, you see, isn't just one guy—he's just a name that keeps getting passed on from one man to another.
While explaining, Westley gets attacked by a R.O.U.S., which stands for Rat of Unusual Size. So yeah, a giant rat jumps on him and sinks its teeth into his shoulder. The only way Westley can get it off is to intentionally roll onto a pocket of sulfur and light both himself and the rat on fire. When the rat lets go, he sinks his sword into it.
Finally they emerge on the other side of the fire swamp and see Westley's pirate ship in the distance. Unfortunately, though, all of Humperdinck's forces are already ahead of them. Westley is taken prisoner, but Buttercup promises to marry Humperdinck right away if he lets Westley live; Humperdinck agrees to the arrangement and rides off with Buttercup.
But, you know, Humperdinck is a big liar. So before riding away, he whispers to his buddy Count Rugen to put Westley in the fifth (and final) level of his Zoo of Death.
Westley knows the score and doesn't beat around the bush. Count Rugen promptly hits him with the butt of his sword and knocks him out, and while Westley falls to the ground, he notices that Count Rugen has six fingers on one hand…