Saturday, 26 June 2010

Into the Dragon's Den

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.
How merry we all were then! How little did we know our peril!

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 monster, that calls itself "Pachinko", takes on many forms, and uses these forms to tempt every sort of innocent citizen into gambling away their livelihoods. It was with trepidation that I sat down to my place beside Joff the Wise in an area where the tendrils of the beast had taken a distinctly nautical identity.
 Joff knew some of the creature's secrets, and explained that with careful rotation of a handle, we could control the speed of a large number of small silver balls within our contraption. If we were skilled, or lucky, we could strike the creature at its heart, forcing it to "spin" and reveal more of itself. If it was forced into revealing three identical forms, it would be relinquished of a large quantity of silver balls and with them, the hopes and dreams of a hundred brave soldiers who had gone before. That, simple as it seemed, was our task.

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.
Battrick the Kindhearted, too, soon lost all he had, and resorted to taking debt from Joff, who had been a little more successful. I am ashamed to say that the temptation of wealth the beast promised was too much for me, and when my own coin ran out I ran out into the rain to draw more to feed the beast.

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.
The outcome the race seemed uncertain, or perhaps irrelevant, as later a maiden - perhaps a mermaid of legend - appeared and was courted romantically by a yellow fish.
I had heard rumour that once one has attacked the beast in this way, it becomes weakened and subsequently more succeptible to further attacks. Indeed, a flap began to open and close near the beast's centre, which allowed more attacks to be successful. However, I was not so lucky in persuading the beast to line up three identical forms again. After many spins and many more "Reach!" moments, my silver balls, including those I had won from the monster, were back inside it.

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. 
Job the Ballsy, too, had managed to collect a respectable sum at his own place, and could return to his home with no stains on his honour.

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.
Here the balls were placed into another devilish contraption, and their number was recorded on parchment in the form of a bond. With this bond, the beast's true treasure could be recovered. We traversed the lair to meet more servants, here to trade a small portion of the winnings into sweetmeats, and then receive magical tokens for the remainder. We were then directed towards the darkest part of the beast's domain. As we looked upon the windows behind which hid our goal, uncertainty rose in our hearts. The heart of Azart did now waver, however, and he demanded his due from whatever lay behind. Riches the possibility of which neither I, nor Battrick, Prickles or even Joff were permiited even to dream of, were bestowed upon Azart then. Jedd and Job followed, and the glory and honour that shone out from them seemed to pass through the whole group and raise our spirits, even those of us who had lost much. We were all victorious in that moment, all kings of men. With joy and celebration did we march out of the lair of the beast - some more war-weary than others, but none with deep regret.

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.


pRickles the elder said...


The Wise said...

Prithee that we should be drawn to the lair to duel again!