by Thomas Davis
As Reestor glared at him, Ruarther felt
As if he’d turned to stone, his spirit hard
And eyes as cold as when the wall of ice
Had overtaken him inside the field.
“We’ve been at peace with dragons much too long
To start a war with them,” the old man said.
“You’re dreaming’s not enough to have them fly
Above us as their breaths chars all we love.”
“It was no dream,” Ruarther growled, his temper blazing.
“The dragon singed me with her stream of fire!
We have to kill the witches’ girl, or else
The world will change in ways that weird us all!”
Ruanne, disoriented, looked at her only love.
He’d kill the child? She’d dreamed of having children
Since childhood, playing with her handmade dolls.
What child had powers strong enough to cause
Grown men to quail before their unlived lives?
She tried to see inside Ruather’s rage
And understand what fear was driving him.
A hundred times she’d thought she’d earned his love,
But every time he’d danced away from her.
“Why do you meld the dragon with the child?”
A stubborn Reestor asked, eyes fixed on rage.
The man was weak yet, still affected by
The storm he’d barely made it through to home.
Around them half the village stood inside
The hall, the argument a bane when winter
Was harsh enough to threaten all of them
If they could not depend on long-term braids
To knit their wills together as they strove
To live until the distant, longed-for spring.
“The dragon spoke about the child,” Ruarther spat.
“Why wouldn’t they be linked? She spoke of her.
If not from spelling by the witch’s child,
Why would a dragon speak again to men?”
Old Molly grasped Ruanne’s slim hand and hissed.
“You’re young, young man,” she said. “Your blood runs hot
Or else you would have known what good is yours.
You’re foolish. In the past we fought the dragons,
And many died, but then the dragons seldom
Attacked unless they were alone, but now
They have communities just like this place.
If stirred, they’ll come together in a pack.”
Ruanne felt like she ought to scream the swirl
Of roiling feelings trapped inside her chest.
“The storm is done,” Ruarther said. “I’ll go.
It doesn’t matter what the village thinks.
I see the danger rising in a cloud,
and like I’ve brought back game when others failed,
I’ll save the village from temerity.
The weirding’s got to stop. The girl is dead.”
Ruanne heard children screeching in the snow.
The storm was over. Now they’d laugh and sing
As if the awful winds and cold had never been.
Inside her mind she felt the dragons flying
In multi-colored packs, an endless stream
Of fire and deadly claws out of their caves.
“I’m leader still. Not you, not yet. You won’t
Go up the mountain,” Reestor said. “We need
More meat. The hunters have to hunt for game.”
Ruarther glared at him. He glanced at Brand.
The hunter looked away as if he heard
His young ones as they worked to dig a path
Between the cottages through feet of snow.
At last Brand looked into Ruarther’s eyes.
“No hunter has your strength or skill,” he said.
“You need to throw your madness out and be
The leader that you’ve always been for us.”
“Nobody understands,” Ruarther said,
His bitterness a rancor in his voice.
“Nobody felt the heat of dragon flame.”
He turned and looked toward the hall’s great door.
He looked at Reestor. “I have always done
What’s good for all of us,” he said. “I’m certain
Deep down that what I’m doing’s for the best.”
Before the men around him moved, he strode
Toward the door, his face implacable.
Ruanne took flight outside her thoughts, her feelings
As raw as skin upon the head of children
Brought out into the light outside the womb.
“You’re wrong,” she heard herself say, voice as sharp
As sharpened knives. “You cannot kill the child!
To kill a child forever marks the soul
With blackness stained into an evil life.”
Ruarther stopped and looked into her panicked eyes.
“I’ll love you all my life,” he said, voice loud.
He turned, picked up his bow, plowed through the snow
Toward the stone wall built around the village.
Inside the hall a hunter, Cragdon, startled,
Then left the hall to join Ruarther’s rage.
His young wife grabbed at him, missed, wailed with fear.
The young man did not stop or even pause.
Audio of Ruarther’s Threat
Note: This is the eighth installment of a long poem. Inspired by John Keats’ long narrative poem, Lamia, it tells a story set in ancient times when dragons and humans were at peace. Click on the numbers to reach other sections, or go to the Categories box to the right under The Dragon Epic. Click on 1 to go to the beginning and read forward, 8 to read the installment before this one. Click on 10 to read the next section.