Art by Mike Sass
The Lament
of Haer'Dalis

Once upon a midnight dreary, I did ponder, weak and weary,
O'er a strange new magic item and the insignia it bore.
Armor wrought from steel or leather? Was it made in Amn or Tethyr?
Who was I to tell just whether it'd felled dragons by the score?
Who was I to divine enchantments beneath encrusted gore?
                                                            Quoth the Raven, "Use thy lore."

Straightaway he made a motion towards a foul-smelling potion,
Tipped it down my throat and dropped the bottle to the floor.
Through my head the blood came surging, brilliant thoughts within me merging,
Summoned by my slightest urging came forgotten history of yore.
The item in my lap revealed its origins, and moreó
                                                            All the secrets at its core.

But then, the omnipresent Raven gave to me, with forehead graven,
A stack of arcane papers he'd kept hidden in a drawer.
Unless I fancied words most biting, for me there would be no delighting
Until I'd scribed each mystic writing into my book of spells of war.
And though it seemed that with each scroll part o' my soul I did outpour . . .
                                                            Quoth the Raven, "Fifty more."

"FIFTY!" cried I, "Mercy, pray! For just how long shall be this day?
How many foes, how many traps, how many dungeons to explore?
How many hours of endless marching, how many spells above us arching,
How many times with thirst most parching must we walk the ocean floor?
How often must we stand firm 'gainst a Baalor's hellish roar?"
                                                            Quoth the Raven, "There's the door."

His meaning could not be more clear; though to me freedom is most dear,
I could not in good heart depart and leave from this beloved corps.
If I would be great of fate, my anger then I must abate
And do my bit to pull my weight and help this ragged Raven soar.
Though oftentimes exciting, adventuring can be a chore . . .
                                                            So I scribed the fifty more.

Yet even then there was no respite: Our merciless and cunning despot
Had plans more urgent than the sleep for which we did implore.
He bade me drink another liquor, which with its taste of rancid ichor
Did lift me to such heights of trickery I'd never known before.
He dragged me 'round the merchants and their goods from them I swiftly tore . . .
                                                            He had me steal wealth galore.

Outside once more, a sight surprising: Tomorrow's morning sun was rising,
We'd spent the whole night scribing spells and shoplifting the gen'ral store.
We'd been awake for three whole days. The Raven, with his steely gaze
Appraised the bright dawn's shining rays and with us found a brief rapport:
"Thou art indeed a sturdy band, neither craven, weakling, nor footsore . . .
                                                            We can go for one day more."

And ever thus he did so use us, so employ us and abuse us,
That our actions did confuse us more than e'er they had before.
'Gainst fiends and liches did we sally, our kills in hundreds did we tally,
And even deadly peril shall eventually be just a bore.
At least I know how long I shall be shackled to this wretched oar . . .
                                                            Quoth the Raven, "EVERMORE."

With apologies to E.A. Poe.