14. The Beginning of War

an epic poem by Thomas Davis

I.

Sshruunak fled high into the winter skies.
He left the concave as his blood raged fear,
Leaped from the nearest ledge into the air
And blindly flew toward the mountain peaks,
His black wings driven down so fiercely hard
He rose and rose until the air was thinner
Than what his lungs could gulp into his hearts.

His thoughts kept singing, Ssruann! Ssruann!
The dragon witch! The witch that ruled his tongue!
And made it so he could not think or speak.

At last, his head so light from lack of air
His dizziness buzzed weakness in his wings,
He wheeled toward the peaks, in moonlight, far
Below him, silver shining light on snow.
He drifted, thoughtless, like a shadow stained
In darkness of the dark beyond the moon,
Then saw, far off, long down the mountain slopes,
A fire built by a human fighting cold.

He did not think, but moved his long, dark wings
And let his rage stoke furnaces inside
His hearts. Humiliation was a fire
That violent death would turn to triumph born
When dragons ruled the earth with claws and fire!
He rumbled deep inside his chest and roared!

II.

Ruarther felt as if he’d fought a war.
He looked at Cragdon’s haggard face and grimaced.
They’d moved on crusts of hardened snow that caved
Deep holes they had to clamber out of shaking.
They’d labored upward, slow as creeping turtles,
Until they’d seen the ridge that jutted black
Against the blinding light of sun-struck snow.
Night cold had burned their faces with its knives
When, at long last, they’d reached the ridge and trees
With limbs that they could use to build a fire.
The weariness they felt was like a weight
That would not let them move their arms or legs.

When Cragdon saw the distant puffs of flame
That flickered all along the mountain’s slopes,
He only motioned as he pointed at the lights.

“What’s that?” he croaked, his weary voice half dead.

Ruarther forced himself to stand and stare.
He listened to the wilderness’s silence,
Felt strangeness make him grab his bow and crouch,
His eyes a restlessness scanned at the sky.

“Your bow!” he hissed at Cragdon. “Hurry! Now!”

He saw the dragon as it flew at them,
Its blackness huge inside the moon’s bright light.
He notched his arrow at the hurtling blackness
As Cragdon, suddenly aware of death’s
Black dragon hide, let go another arrow.
The dragon roared, its roar so threatening and loud
It made Ruarther tremble from its rage.
He turned and saw the space between the boulders.

“Behind the stones!” he yelled. “Our war has come!”

III.

An arrow skipped a half inch from his eyes
Off scales into the dark, but then another
Burned into his right eye’s pupil, sending
Gross streams of blood and pain into the wind
His body made as wings beat hard and fast.
Flame spewed into the dark toward the midgets
That tried to flee his might behind huge rocks.
He roared his rage and pain and soared as ground
Brushed hard and cold against the tip of wings
That lifted him. He hated humans! Death!
He raged. He was of dragonkind, a brother
Of death, destruction, hate, and ancient rage!
He wheeled toward the puny men again
And roared as if his voice was dredged from realms
Where humans congregated past their graves.

IV.

He would not be afraid again, Ruarther swore
Beneath his breath behind the boulder’s shield.
He glanced at Cragdon, saw the dragon’s breath
Had seared the bobcat coat he wore, exposing flesh.
The campfire burned its cheer into the night.

He heard the dragon turn and waited, breath
Forgotten as he tried to time his move
So that his strength could send a deadly arrow
Into the dragon’s eye and make it flee.

The dragon’s wings were loud. Ruarther moved
Into the open, saw an arrow buried
Inside the dragon’s right eye, drew his bow,
And tried to drive another arrowhead
Into the same eye spewing dragon blood.
The dragon’s flame enveloped him with agony.
He could not hear or see the dragon rake
Its legs into the surface of the snow
Or see a second arrow’s shaft protruding
Out from the dragon’s eye, blood staining snow.

V

Sshruunak’s pain flared as if the universe
Had disappeared into a blood red fire.
He felt wings drive into the freezing snow
And barely lifted from the ground where death
Was waiting. Claws extended, pain a haze,
He tried to rake the flesh he’d burned with fire.
But dragon will was not enough to let him wheel.
I’ve damaged both my wings, he thought. Both wings.
He flew toward the caves and thought about
Ssruann’s last words she’d used to silence him:
“The girl is one of us,” she’d said. The prophecy
A geas that led him in his foolishness
To court his death confronting puny men.

Click to hear an audio of this section: The Beginning of War

Note: This is the fourteenth 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 below 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. Go to 13 to read the section before this one. Go to 15 to read the next section of the epic.

8 Comments

Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis

8 responses to “14. The Beginning of War

  1. Ina

    Hi Thomas
    it is a great ungoing poem in size and story, very impressive!

  2. Printing out. Will be back later to comment!

  3. With great expectation, looking forward to the ending of war but am doubtful this will ever happen…

  4. Very powerful anger and hatred in this dragon’s mind. I too will be waiting to see what transpires… and what part Wei will play in this war. You certainly know how to paint vivid pictures in the mind. Your writing is so well crafted – it’s stunning!

  5. I am bleeding from my eye and feel crippled in my left wing (arm!) as I leave this scene, Thomas! I continue to amaze myself at how involved I get in this tale with each new installment. I am rooting for Ssruann and Wei (?the witch’s girl?) through all of this.

  6. Caddo Veil

    Hi Thomas–I look forward to each new “episode”! Hope you are feeling better this week–will email you soon. Prayers continuing, and also love to you and Ethell–Caddo

  7. Julie Catherine

    … the time of dread has come … and I, too, am rooting for Ssruann and Wei, although I fear for them both ….

  8. The descriptions, the movement, makes this as vivid as if watching it in a movie, and I so admire your talent at this kind of narrative poetry. Excellent ‘work’, Thomas!

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