The Old Man’s Tale

The Old Man's Taleby Mike Spitalieri


With tired tepid steps

Our travelers return from the Tabard Inn

But still the matter of the most merry tale

Is decided not, for the dimming days of spring are nearly done.

The travelers still jolly from ale and mead join in a jilted din

Voice their vaunts of the tale they choose very best.

Amid our roar of raucous rabble

Whispering words are heard from a wispy old man hunched over his saddle

His words escape with an erudite tone

Through chapped lips cracked from winter’s chill

His frazzled face is fraught with graying hair

Missing is one eye, maimed from some malice long past

“Finished this contest is not my furtive friends

For my tale is not yet told to you tots and pups and lads and lasses.”

“Nay to thee” says the Woman of Barth. “Belated are ye brazen old man

For what fool wouldst listen to a frail and frantic old bat.

Why we’ve all watched our winded fool

As he converses with the hunting hounds

The Old Man's TaleAnxious to await their angry yelps

Or his long diatribes directed only at the dubious wind.”

“Silence!” says the old fellow, “For one and all would do well to listen to those weary with age.”

“Enough!” cries the Parson, “our evening is but early and

Tarry we shall until tonight’s final tale be done.

“Gather all ye round to hear my tale

I speak of a great and glorious General King clad all in mail

Though his conquest stretched through lands far and wide

It mattered nothing to the plague and surely he died

T’was on the trail to the hallowed halls of Valhalla

Our grave general greets a blind beggar seated on a round rock

Milky clouds were his sightless eyes that saw no more

Though this beggar never wrenched his wary gaze from our worldly General King

‘Who be he who so rushes past old Emit with harrowing steps?’

‘Good sir I be the General King of Kael off to see my Kindly Kin in Valhalla’s halls’

‘Ah tis so my lively lad but thou seemst too young for such a laudable title’

The Old Man's Tale‘Boyish may I be but my broadsword hath bit many a bitter foe’

‘So I see young sir King, forgive this old man’s silliness,

I beg of you but one task before you take your end journey

I request you humble my old heart and hand sign my book

For you see all great men of grandeur greet me once their lives are forfeit

This simple tome is ageless for the annals of ancient time to hold all great deeds’

‘But of course good sir shall I sign your simple text,

For there is no more worthy man than myself. I shall wistfully grant your whim.’

And so the old beggar bequeaths his book to the burly hands of our young King

The King does flip endless flowing pages to find a fitting space for his name to fill.

‘No room is there that I may request to write my name,’ exclaims the King

‘My gracious sir, though time be endless my book is but ten thousand pages.

There is but one way you may write your name, that your wonderous deeds be prolonged after death.

To embrace time thou must erase one of the effigies of your eminent peers.’

‘That can only mean that many a year might pass that another man remove my name to mark his own’

‘That is correct my courtly King of Kael. Such is the price of all who deem their deeds good and true.’

So it was for seven days and nights

Kael’s King poured over the text in search of a name to blight

The Old Man's Tale

Illustrations by J. Andrew World

Yet he found no man unworthy

T’was none among them ill matched in company

‘Old man I see no unfitting man I would assault such umbrage

The stock of men in your book are far superior to me

I fancy my deeds be forgotten lest these fair and just fellows ne’er endure’

‘If that be your decree I deem it a worthy donation my doughty King

Ne’er a hundred thousand lifetimes has a soul humbled himself before the test of humility

For this sacrifice my generous General King I grant you a lasting medium to mark your genesis.

Here on this stone I have sat my somber vigil awaiting souls

Here shall you etch your eternal existence in the annals of history ne’er to dim degrade or darken

The old man handed the King of Kael a hammer and chisel

To finalize this solemn ritual

For hence forth through time all in Valhalla and on earth told tale

Of the great and noble King of Kael!’