Legends of Love and Luck is a collaborative epic novel composed by Balckwell and Hoober, for publication on the Soup Web Zone. It is inspired by Classical Chinese Novels such as Journey to the West, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Bandits of the Water-Margin. Odd-numbered chapters will be composed by Balckwell, and even-numbered chapters by Hoober. We hope you enjoy the result.
Captain Shufflepuck Sails Into Town / Saint Stunk Discovers a Hullabaloo
A mysterious ship appeared on the water, approaching the docks of Green Capital. It was of a curious hexagonal design, and sailed under a flag unknown to any of the spotters at the port authority. A rowboat was sent out to reconnoitre with it in order to discover its origin as well as its purpose. In the rowboat was River Thrushing and his sister, Steam Wasping. They attached their boat to the mysterious ship. A ladder was thrown down, and they climbed aboard.
A man was awaiting them at the top, arms akimbo. This was Captain Shufflepuck. He was a burly man with perpetually sunburned pale skin. He wore a purple cap atop his head, an eyepatch over his left eye, and a great, grey, rugged coat. Beneath his misshapen moustache was a wide mouth bent into a cruel grin. River Thrushing and Steam Wasping approached him cautiously.
“My friends!” Captain Shufflepuck yelled in a booming voice, his arms spread out wide, “Welcome aboard! This is my ship, the Heophisotpopehles!”
“A fine ship, this Heophisotpopehles,” River Thrushing said, gazing around at the piles of multicoloured cloth strewn around the deck. “And where is it you are sailing from, Captain…”
“Shufflepuck! I have sailed all around the Iron Sea, my friends. Where I am from, even I can not say. Perhaps I was born of the sea! Alas, it does oft treat me as a mother may. One day scolding me, the next day providing a comforting embrace. Ah, the sea, it is my home, my mistress, my mother, my father, ah…” His words drifted away as he stared out into the great ocean.
“Just write the Isle of Ayle,” River Thrushing whispered to Steam Wasping, whose pen was wavering over the empty space next to “Origin” on a large form. “Well, Captain,” he said in a louder voice towards Shufflepuck, “what brings you to the Green Capital? Unfortunately, we can not let you dock without certain permissions, which in order to be granted require certain information…”
“My friend! I have been invited here! Were you not informed?”
“It seems not.” River Thrushing glanced at his sister, and then back at Shufflepuck. “Who was it that invited you?”
“Ah… It was a man wearing one glove too large for him, and one too small. He slouched before me, and told me, in a faint whisper, that my presence was required in the Green Capital. Of course, this was a few years ago now! I have been a little busy, ha ha!” Captain Shufflepuck’s laughter was so vigorous that it pushed him backwards a few feet.
“That sounds like Mr. Chimney…” Steam Wasping whispered.
“It does.” said River Thrushing. “And where did you meet this man?”
“It was in a dream, my friend! I remember it well. I was sailing into a land full of beautiful mermaids. They were calling to me from their rocks, and I remember that I was halfway through removing my breeches, when the man appeared before me. ‘Ah,’ I said to him, ‘We have not met before! Are you here to join in the festivities?’ He shook his head, and that was when he whispered his invitation. Of course, the dream fell apart from there, and try as I might, I have not been able to navigate my mind palace back to that delightful dream again since! Ah, but once I do my friends, once I do…”
River Thrushing cut him off. “Well, Captain, I would confirm this information with Mr. Chimney himself, but unfortunately he is out of town right now.”
“Curse my luck!” Captain Shufflepuck guffawed. “It is just like me to show up at in the right place at the wrong time! Alas, I will park my ship wherever is convenient and wait. My crew will appreciate the shore leave!” He looked around the ship, excited. The deck was entirely devoid of any crew. “And how long will I be waiting for our esteemed friend?”
“It will be within a week’s time,” River Thrushing replied. Steam Wasping opened her mouth to speak, but he nudged her with his elbow. “For the time being, you may park your ship in the dock, but unfortunately, none of your crew members will be able to disembark until we receive the proper authorization.”
“Hmm… the lads will not be happy,” said Shufflepuck, shaking his head, “but it is unavoidable. We have been at sea for many months now; one more week is but a short time to wait.”
“I am glad you understand,” said River Thrushing. “We will be off now. A pilot will be here shortly to direct your ship to a suitable docking location.” With that, River Thrushing and Steam Wasping descended the ladder and rowed back to shore.
“A queer fellow,” River Thrushing said, once they were out of earshot.
“It is not beyond Mr. Chimney’s power to employ dream summons,” said Steam Wasping. “But I wonder why he would summon such a man as that. It seems that whatever task he invited him to do would be irrelevant by now, though…”
“Perhaps he knew it would take him this long,” River Thrushing wondered aloud. “It could be that Mr. Chimney meant for him to arrive at exactly this time.”
“Do you really think so? Curious…”
“I’m just thinking out loud,” said River Thrushing. “With the recent troubles and Mr. Chimney’s disappearance, I’ve been having to think much more than usual. Perhaps I’m growing paranoid.”
They reached the shore in silence.
* * *
As Saint Stunk forded the ancient dying river of Oxun, she could percieve the disctinct smells of village life. She altered her course towards the smells, hoping to find some hospitality on this long, lonely trip. As she approached a small forest village, Boddhisatva Green Onion descended from the sky on a cloud.
“Take care, Saint Stunk!” she cried. “There is disaster in this village. I fear that a demon has hidden itself among the villagers, and is sowing great disharmony. The famous Wa Hu school of martial arts has split asunder, and its disciples are on the verge of a battle that could destroy the entire village.”
Saint Stunk nodded. “Thank you Green Onion for your gracious warning. I will be careful.”
The village was shrouded in a dense forest. Before Saint Stunk entered, she sat patiently on a stump nearby and attuned her hyper-sensitive ears to the sounds. She heard a dastardly sort of music emanating from the East, and a menacing sort of music emanating from the West. These were the chants of the newly rivalling Wa and Hu schools. The two sets of music were converging in the town square.
Saint Stunk knew of the Wa Hu school. It had been founded by Mah Ryo in ancient times. The discipline was based around impeccably timed jumps. The masters of the practice employed a flurry of dives, leaps, and flips in order to attain a favourable position against their adversaries.
When the music halted, Saint Stunk sat up and entered the village. The two factions were lined up in the village square, arranged in two long lines facing each other. The Wa clan was led by Jin Ryo, the latest in the long Ryo line. The Hu clan was led by Frivolous Jenga, who stood eight-feet tall and three inches. Jin Ryo was famous for his speed, his jumps launching him many feet into the air with no perceptible wind-up or warning. Frivolous Jenga used his long legs for powerful jumps that sent him soaring to the tops of the highest trees, from which he performed death-defying diving attacks that could crush boulders.
When Saint Stunk arrived, the two were exchanging bitter words. Saint Stunk leaned against the railing of a balcony where two older men watched the stand-off. “Not a great time to arrive in town,” one of them said.
“Seems like good timing to me,” Saint Stunk replied. She reached into her tunic and brought out a blank piece of paper. On the piece of paper, she wrote an elaborate character that neither man recognized.
Calmly, she approached Jin Ryo and Ferocious Jenga. They ceased their quibbling, and looked at her in stunned silence. She placed herself equidistant between the two combatants. Placing the paper on the ground, she whispered a single word. The paper was then picked up by a gust of wind, and sailed towards the forest. It was caught in mid-air by a phoenix, which had appeared seemingly out of nowhere. The phoenix circled the rivalling clans several times as every member stared up in awe. Then, it landed on Saint Stunk’s shoulder.
Ferocious Jenga was the first to speak. “What brings you here, Saint Stunk? This dispute is a private affair of the Wa Hu school.”
“I am not here to get in the way of any dispute,” Saint Stunk replied. “I am simply passing through on my way to the Green Capital.”
“In that case, you will find a graceful welcome at the local inn,” said Ferocious Jenga. “It is but a little ways up the street.”
“Thank you.” Saint Stunk began to walk away, phoenix still on her shoulder.
“Wait!” The squeaky voice belonged to Jin Ryo. “That phoenix… what is its significance?”
“Oh, this old thing?” Saint Stunk stroked the phoenix’s head, causing it to let out a small squawk. “Just a companion of mine.” She turned her back on the fight, and continued walking away.
Jin Ryo and Ferocious Jenga looked at each other. All of a sudden, a terrifying scream was unleashed from someone in the town square. The skin on said person’s face began to burn, dripping off their face and landing in puddles on the floor, revealing a grotesque demonic countenance underneath. The burned demon fell on their knees, writhing in pain, while their body bulged and squished, transmogrifying into a bestial shape.
But who was it? Read on to find out.