45. Before the End of the World

a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis

Ssruanne swooped suddenly toward the ground.
Ruarther closed his eyes and forced the cry
Of terror in his throat to swallow bile.
And then the golden dragon let him fall
A foot into the snow, his eyes still filled
With dragons smashing cottages as fire
From arrows burned their bellies and their sides.
The image of the ancient dragon who had flown
Beside the golden dragon from the field,
Descending on the coal black dragon who
Had almost killed Ruarther in the moonlight,
Seemed false, impossible to understand.

Unharmed, he got up on his feet and saw
The stone wall circling the village, warmth
Inside of him as memories of life
He’d often treated badly, even though
The villagers, his kin, had honored him,
Came rushing in a flood of wondrous joy.

He ran toward the wall, climbed up, and stopped.
Below, his face a frozen mask, was Cragdon.
His blackened skin had peeled to show his skull.
He’d died an agonizing death by fire.
Ruarther sat, stunned, on the wall as dragons,
Attacking dragons with ferocity
And overwhelming streams of deadly flame,
Reordered everything he’d thought through life.
The golden dragon that he’d feared so much
Roared down on Ruanne’s cottage, claws extended.
The monster black that Cragdon and Ruarther
Had fought screeched as it rose to meet her claws.

What madness had possessed his life and made
Him choose a rationality so wrong
It had no anchor in reality?
He saw the bow that Cragdon once had held
And tried to force himself to leave the wall.

Above him spirit creatures, freed from chaos,
Streamed through the air toward the awful carnage
As dragons joined the humans fighting dragons.
The villagers, confused, had stopped their efforts
To launch their flaming arrows at hard scales
Since they could not discern which dragons fought
Beside them or against them in the battle.
The dragons wheeled and roared and filled the air
With colored scales, wings, flames, and aerobatics.
There were so many that it seemed as if
There was no room for empty winter skies.

Behind the spirit beasts a weirding storm
Swirled from the center of a cloud that fell
In blackness down toward the snowy earth.
Ruarther heard the dire wolves howling rage
Before the storm and saw a wall of chaos
Inhaling light, normality, and reason.
The bridge between the netherworld and life
Raged worse than any dragon’s roar or flame or claws.

Ruarther did not flinch to see the storm.
He’d lived through frightening storms too many times.
He glanced again at Cragdon’s grimaced face,
Then stood upon the wall again, his face toward
The storm about to swallow up the world.
Why had a man as brave as Cragdon died?
Ruarther, tortured by his history
Of grievous faults, would not run from the storm,
But face it’s fury with a fury of his own.

Before the wall of swirling, ugly clouds,
The rainbow human dragon wheeled around,
A shining dragonfly against the deadly
Immensity the world could not escape.
Ruarther wondered at the grace he’d sought
So long to murder in his spirit-heart.

To listen to this passage, click on Before the End of the World

Note: This is the forty fifth passage of a long narrative poem, which has grown into The Dragon Epic. Originally 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 Dragonflies, Dragons and Her Mother’s Death to go to the beginning and read forward. Go to Confrontation to read the passage before this one. Click on Retreat to read the next passage in the epic.


Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis

3 responses to “45. Before the End of the World

  1. This set me thinking , as I have done a few times recently, about the way the techniques of presentation in moving pictures (films, TV) have influenced the way writers choose to depict a scene or story. Fresh perspectives; framing, jumping from one scene to another; close ups; pulling back; panning …

  2. Looking forward to next chapter!

  3. Julie Catherine

    … I am mesmerized …. this is so wonderful!

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