Prologue

"Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, alone and palely loitering?"

The knight groaned, reaching for his ale and gulping heavily before tilting his cap over his eyes, and saying, "Leave me be, poet. I am in no mood."

"Come on, I was onto a good one there."

"Bother some other drunken sot. Or some other sot, as you have yet to let me become drunk."

"But this is how I'm writing it down, you promised me a story..." the poet wheedled.

"Fine! Get me a stronger drink, and then you may dull my senses with your hideous rhyming couplets."

The poet knew better than to complain, he was lucky to get this story. He flagged down the landlord and asked for a jug of rum. The knight downed three tumblers before the poet could pry the vile liquid away from him.

The poet cleared his throat dramatically while the knight stared blearily. "Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, alone and palely loitering?" there was a pause as he looked down at the drunk, but at no interruption, the poet continued with a smile and a flourish. "The sedge is withered from the lake, and no birds sing. Oh what can ail thee, Knight-at-arms-"

"You already said that bit, y'know."

"Yes! I know! Now please let me continue!"

"Alright," a small hiccup, "Go on then."

"Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms, so haggard and so woe-begone? The squirrel's granary is full, and the harvest's done."

The rum jug clunked, and the poet looked down with a sense of dread.

"Why," the knight stopped a moment, to clear his alcohol strewn thoughts, "why are you talking about squirrels?"

"Artistic licence," the poet said, with a world weary drawl, "and to continue; I see a lily on thy brow-"

"Do you?" the drunk raised a hand to his forehead to check the validity of this statement, missed completely and promptly fell off of his chair. The poet didn't bother to look down.

"I see a lily on thy brow, with anguish moist and fever dew; and on thy cheek a fading rose fast withereth too. There. Now you tell me your story, and don't worry about the prose, I can add that later."

The poet heard a hiccup from knee level, followed by a small giggle. He sighed and proceeded to drag the drunken knight from the floor, prop him into a chair, and throw cold water in his face.

The knight flailed at his belt.

"You left your sword by the door." The poet informed him. "Am I really worth a skewering? Now then, tell me what happened. Tell me about La Belle Dame Sans Merci..."