Last night, seven knights rode out to find their fortune. This is their story.
There is a beast that takes its lifeblood from the Japanese people. The monster tempts the vulnerable with promises of wealth, and then drains its victims dry. This creature is so cunning that it has insinuated itself into every city, into every town, and onto every highway in the country. Living here, one becomes so accustomed to being around it that you can easily forget it's even there. Last night, we decreed, "No longer."
It was Jedd the Bold who first suggested we try to face the beast. For three years many of us had been living around it, but few had dared approach. When the proposal was made, many brave and gallant men balked at the notion. The danger was too much, and the potential for loss was too high. But then there were the seven. With Jedd agreed to go Joff the Wise. When younger warriors hesitated, Job the Ballsy stepped forward as well. Responding to the call, Battrick the Kindhearted joined the fellowship. I, Jamm the Curious, answered thereafter, not wishing to be deprived of the glory that was promised. Thereafter Azart the Young became one of the fellows, youthful and eager to prove himself. Finally came Gris the Elder, known to his fellow paladins as 'Prickles' for his misanthropic nature, who joined the company to regain his lost honour.
At the seventh hour, our party gathered, and amidst a storm of high winds and torrential rain, we feasted on meats and bread to build our strength for the task at hand. When all were ready, we set off into the darkness to seek our fortune.
As we approached the lair of the beast and passed its threshold, our ears were assaulted by a thousand angry sounds. The distinctive clang of metal on metal was the first sign that we were not the only warriors to brave this task tonight. We took our places among the others.
The creature would not give us access to any balls initially, however, without us first having to give something of ourselves. Worried about the precedent, I took gold from my coin purse and gave it to the machine. Despite my best efforts, I was soon forced to give up more of my wealth because despite being able to make the beast spin many times, he refused to show the same three forms. Many times he screamed out, "Reach!", as two forms had aligned and waited only for the third to reveal itself. Disappointment grew to frustration when my pairs of manatees or king crabs lined up two in row, then were joined by a shrimp, or an octopus.
Many of my fellow warriors faced similar fates. Prickles had mixed fortunes that turned sour when he lost all he had - enough for ale, weed and songs for two nights at least.
When I returned, I had somewhat better luck. I tried a different contraption to the one I had begun on. Finally, the beast showed its three identical forms, and I was rewarded with a message - "Super Lucky!". My wits, already befuddled with the noise and the stench of a hundred cigarettes, were further confounded by three sea dwelling creatures racing across a beach.
But my news is not all of woe. There were those among us who, through their courage and wits, seemed to tame the beast like a cur. Jedd the Bold, who had organised our sortie, had already amassed quite a collection by the time I surrendered. The spoils of his campaign were placed behind him by servants of the beast, those who feign friendship but truly desire only the beast's final victory.
However, it was Azart the Young who won the day for our fellowship. With an iron will hardened by years of compulsory dance lessons, and a dexterity of wrist tempered by the birthing of a hundred calfs in his native Texas, Azart kept his nerve to encounter "Super Lucky" moment after "Super Lucky" moment.
Soon, he was rewarded not only with a vision of mermaid, but with one of real, live princess of a far-away island country. She sang to him of her joy and gratitude in a voice so sweet that I, and Battrick beside me, could not help but shed a tear.
Azart's luck held out, and his princess visited him many times. However, at long last both his and Jedd's luck ran out, and the servants of the beast began to circle. They wished Jedd to use his newly-won hoard to win even more, but Jedd was wise, and stern. He would not allow the quest to have been for naught. Azart followed his example and instead demanded that the servants count his prizes and give him his due. They piled his treasure chests on a cart drawn by a mule, and he was taken to the counting area.
Our quest is over now, and I can leave this land knowing that the beast cannot do as it would without impugnity. It is not defeated, but it has tasted pain and for now, that it enough.