Valediction for the Dungeon Master

by Mark Jones

But from the top of that tower
the man had been able to look out
upon the sea.
— J. R. R. Tolkien


A true aubade, the textbooks say,
is a song of couples parting
at the break of day.

The best of them, it’s also said,
are those of star-crossed lovers
loath to rise from bed.

But you’re a perfect Romeo,
still sorting dice, although the others
left an hour ago,

and I’ll confess that I’m not yet,
despite my fourteen years and more,
quite a Juliet,

although I won’t deny myself
the satisfaction that I play
a tolerable elf.

(You said as much yourself
tonight. You looked up from the screen and said,
“a tolerable elf,”

and said it with a glint of piercing blue.)
Am I permitted just one saving throw,
or must I stay with you

as the adventurers of late were held in thrall
of your graph-paper conjured
giant’s hall?

The rest have gone, and I alone remain,
another figure to be put away
until the next campaign.

And yet we needn’t take our leave like this.
In former ages lovers met the dawn
with tender kiss

or raged against the interfering sun,
telling the busy fool to pester someone else:
how they could make him run!

Indeed, such marvels you and I
have seen this night: charting whole new kingdoms,
we’ve given our own the lie.

Or rather, we have rendered ours more true:
traveling under crimson heaven, we come
to know the blue,

and dragons soaring in those ancient skies
now lend their fiery magic to
this sunrise,

whose rosy talons now beckon at the window.
We’ve shelved the manuals of last night’s play,
and I must go.

But let our parting be of sweetest sorrow,
as we climb once more our tower of fantasy.
Clasping hands, let us go and greet tomorrow,
gazing all the while upon the sea.


Copyright © 2015 by Mark Jones

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