an epic poem by Thomas Davis
Ruanne packed carefully, then heaved a sigh.
The hunters would not willingly allow
Her presence as they braved the treachery
Of miles of snow now frozen on its surface.
They’d think she’d be a burden as they watched
For warring dragons and the wounded men,
But she was going if she had to travel
Behind them as they tried to find Ruarther
And Cragdon struggling back to where the village,
Tense, fearful, waited for a dreaded future.
She loved Ruarther even as he caused
The chaos threatening all that she loved.
Outside her cottage Reestor waited, looking
Exhausted, circles black beneath his eyes.
He shook his head to see the pack she’d packed.
“I knew you’d try to go,” he said. “A-Brimm
Will try to stop you, but he’ll not succeed.”
Ruanne smiled at the village leader, shook
Her head, but silently walked past to where
The hunters gathered as the morning sun
Threw blue, long shadows out from trees
Whose branches bent beneath their loads of snow.
A-Brimm looked carefully at her and Reestor
The moment that they left her cottage door.
She did not look at him, but looked toward
The trail they’d travel as they made their way
Into the slopes and fields that rose snow-bound
Into the mountains where the dragons lived.
When Reestor opened up the wooden gate
The grim-faced hunter shook his head and frowned.
“This trip is not a woman’s trip,” he said.
“I’ll not be blamed for leading you to harm.”
Ruanne glanced at his glare, then walked on past
And started down the trail toward the fields
Beyond the denseness of the forest’s trees.
A-Brimm turned, desperate, to Reestor, pointed
Toward Ruanne, frustration in the way he stood.
“You’re leader. Make her stop,” he said. “Who knows
What nightmares that we’ll face outside of here.”
“Ruarther’s hurt and dying,” Reestor said.
“We need her here if we can stop this war
Before it overwhelms us all, but I
Can’t stop her, so you’ll have to keep her safe.”
The seven other hunters mumbled, growled
To hear the village leader’s words. A-Brimm
Just stared at him, then grabbed his bow and pack
From snow and stalked to where Ruanne had walked.
The other hunters, voices cursing, scrambled
Into the trail Ruanne and he had left.
Blind, stumbling, Cragdon felt his death
Beside him in the snow he’d walked for days.
His body jarred each time he forced his muscles
Into another step, another mile,
His eyesight blurring in the winter sunlight.
He’d lost the reason why he kept his legs
Alive with shuffling downhill toward
The endlessness of emptiness. His thoughts
Were haunted by the vision of a dragon
That flamed out from the fullness of a moon
With searing tongues of fire that made his flesh
Smell charred and sweet with putrefaction’s rot.
He kept on swatting at the empty air
And flinching as the flames shot out at him.
He thought he’d welcome death when movement
Became too difficult, and life gave out.
He thought he’d smile and take death’s hand in his
And feel relief that he, at last, was done.
He could not bring his wife or child alive
Inside his mind. It troubled him, but still. . .
Ruanne walked from the woods into the fields
And squinted at the brightness of the snow.
A-Brimm, ten steps behind, stopped when she stopped.
Behind them hunters started leaving woods.
Ruanne then saw the figure stumbling
Toward them out of light, his head hung down.
Her heart inside her throat, she saw that Cragdon,
A man near death, was struggling alone.
Ruarther was not anywhere in sight,
And then she smelled a bear’s rank smell and felt
It rising up inside the forest, light
Cold-deep in red eyes burning hate and rage.
She saw it rise up from a fire’s dark ash
And hunch above Ruarther’s sleeping body
Burned raw by dragon flame and coal-black rage,
Its roiling spirit flowing like a stream
Into the rage that made him who he was.
The vision made her stagger, sending blackness,
A thin, sharp, liquid arrow at her brain.
She heard A-Brimm shout when he saw the man.
She watched as Cragdon stopped his movement, tried
To understand if he was hearing things,
And lifted up his head into the air.
She turned toward the village, away from Cragdon,
As all the hunters ran toward the man.
She could not see. The great bear smiled at her
And laughed its weirding as she fled its madness,
Ruarther’s madness, wondering how she
Could keep him safe from who he was inside,
A man who thought that he could kill a child
And bring a peace he’d purposely destroyed.
I should have known, she thought. Ruather’s strength
Was great enough to live through dragon’s fire.
Salvation layed in her and not in him.
To listen to this section of the epic, click Reordering Salvation
Note: This is the twenty second installment of a long narrative poem, which has grown into an epic. 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 21 to read the installment before this one. Click on 23 to read the next installment and continue the journey.