December 5, 2000
Alfred's Tale - By Rapscallion
In times of old I went my way,
And left the city's gate,
I passed by iron railings that
Were such a heavy weight.
The graveyard they encompassed,
I noticed the old man was there,
Sitting on the stony land,
He took one look at those who passed
And raised an old, gnarled hand.
"Listen to me from where I sit,"
He said, "For I cannot stand."
Now I knew of this old man,
With hoar upon his head,
Many a trader loved him,
For this was old Alfred.
Poor and old and gaunt was he,
And gravel was his bed.
"What gives?" asked the passers
In voices loud and coarse.
"I'll tell a tale, of my life"
Quoth Alfred rather hoarse.
"A tale of fun and frolics, sirs,
And romance too, of course."
I smiled so quick and made to leave,
His kind offer I refused,
Yet then I saw the crowd gather,
And I was sore bemused.
I dared not risk to miss this tale,
And of folly be accused.
I gathered round and made myself
Just one part of the crowd,
The noises of the people stilled,
They soon were much less loud.
I thought to ask a question but I
Sensed it was not allowed.
So in this way Alfred did start,
His age old tale to tell,
Of how he loved and how he lost,
And why his feet did smell.
For many a mile he had now walked
Through many a dingly dell.
"I took my trek from the City here,
The spires were bright and fair,
I had had enough of city life,
And longed for country air.
I had my health, I was so free,
I had no earthly care.
"So off I went along the roads,
Oft stopping for a fire,
South west I went and then did find
A city built in mire.
Men and reptiles there did dwell,
For short they called it 'Lyr.'
"I found myself a princess there,
Yet her father's heart was hard,
We sought to meet in secret,
At night in the dark courtyard.
I did err and so will warn,
Ne'er try to kiss a lizard.
"The King, you see, knew that a son,
Like I he could not afford,
He sent his bravest knights at me,
To put me to the sword.
The roads invited me full well,
Their camber flat and broad.
"I went east from there with many hounds,
Snapping at my weary heels,
His baying dogs made me go fast,
My feet were full of weals.
All because I wished to take,
The best of Daenar's seals.
"Mystara was my next abode,
For many weeks I stayed,
I danced the jig with the sailors,
And coiled the ropes so frayed.
Yet had I stayed there as I wished,
My hair would fast have greyed.
"Instead I grabbed a riding horse,
And bid a fond 'Adieu',
Then travelled I northwards,
To where the crystals grew.
I'd heard tell of Riverton,
Could the tales be true?
"I went that way and saw the town
Shining like a starry beam,
A mass of shining crystal sat
In the sun's reflected gleam.
Such wealth used as masonry?
It made my purse strings scream!
"The wealth that paved the streets so fair,
Hard hewn with picks and axe,
Great were fortunes made just there,
By merchants with their packs.
Yet my wealth went for in that place,
They set an odious tax.
"My purse grew thin, my belly too,
So I resumed my trek,
I could not afford that place and so,
I traversed the nearby beck.
Eastwards did I travel then for
My cash the dwarves did peck.
"O'er many a hill and stream I went,
Till I found the seaside,
I gazed around and stared some more,
A large tower I'd espied.
The seagulls flew all around,
I dodged in vain and cried!
"I wiped my hair and ventured to,
The city Karlisna,
For that was the place my eyes had seen,
On that beach from afar.
My thirst was great and so I went
Straight in to seek a bar.
"I went my way inside the place,
And followed the street east,
So many people thronged that way,
Perhaps they trailed a priest?
Yet when I saw what they sought,
My eyes on it did feast.
"I took a draught at this great fount,
Its top shaped like a drake,
I quaffed again and found this place
A raging thirst could slake.
Yet then I nearly wet myself,
The fount began to shake!
"A man had come with treasure great,
To this fount he did proffer,
A crystal in the fountain went,
And knowledge did it offer.
I see that you believe me not,
Please, be not a scoffer!
"I turned from here for such a place,
Was from the heavens sent,
Pilgrims travelled from afar,
And on their knees they bent.
Yet to lodge a night as pilgrims paid,
It would take my last cent.
"I took myself o'er country fair,
To avoid a drunken bore,
I sought a place where he'd not go,
The great city Trellor.
I'd know where it was said he,
Nestled up against the shore.
"I saw the city standing proud,
The streets turned circle square,
The guardsmen were so strong and tall,
The maidens more than fair.
Yet after walking through those streets,
I could not help but stare.
"The pouch I had just in my belt,
From my sight now was gone,
I'd been robbed as I had walked
The streets so fair and long.
I had not a thing left to my name,
Except a mournful song.
"The local poets heard my dirge,
They started to berate,
They told me to leave the place,
By the west-looking gate.
Transport was there for me they said,
E'en in a cash-strapped state.
"A portal hung in an eerie place,
With magic throbs it flared,
My hair stood straight from my scalp,
For I was really scared.
Yet I had risked so much by now,
The portal then I dared.
"Unearthly fog did swill around,
Odd lights did brightly flare,
I took my rest and checked my shoes,
The soles were nearly bare.
I rose myself at journey's end,
And then saw Castle Square.
"Home I was, yet penniless,
Now I sit in this place,
I give directions to all who pass,
So they now know my face.
I tell my tale and earn that way,
I live on people's grace."
He took his hat and with a smile,
He offered it around,
With loose change it soon was full,
And weighed a pretty pound.
As the crowd left I went to him,
And coughed, a nervous sound.
"I heard your tale and am impressed,
With the story of your life,
I know you have suffered much,
And lost a beauteous wife
But why do you sit out here?
This place is brim-full of strife.
"The shield extends not this far,
The weather's unforgiving,
Lightning strikes and windy gusts,
And wasps that love to sting."
Alfred looked up and said to me,
"Well lad, it's a living."
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