46. Retreat

a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis


The great black dragon’s hurtling unnerved
Ruanne, but, even though she felt like leaping
From roof to ground and hiding with the children
Beneath the floors of cottages in dark,
She pulled her bow and sent a flaming arrow
Into the dragon’s scales and saw him flinch
Back from the flame, his searing breath-flame missing
Where he had aimed at her, his claws a shrilling
Across the roof as wings fought hard to take
Him back into the air away from where she kneeled.
Inside her mind she chanted words that seemed
As if they’d come from someone else and sang
As if her chanting had a power far
Beyond the power that she knew she had.

She felt triumphant for a moment, seeing
The dragon swerve away from flames that spread
Out from the arrow’s mark across its belly,
But then he turned and aimed his massive body
At where she pulled upon her bow’s taut string
And hurtled at her smallness as she threw
Herself away from where he’d aimed, her arrow
Another flame into his hardened scales.
The dragon roared as Ruanne rolled across
The roof and tried to keep from plummeting
To ground, her eyes filled with a sky of dragons
So huge with searing flame and massive claws
The world seemed mad with frightened screams and roars
That shook the ground and made her feel half deaf.

“Undo the chaos of the universe,”
She sang. “Cleanse winds that are no winds.
Undo the chaos; stir the winds; make
The world anew, chaotic rage undone.
Undo the chaos of the universe.”

She did not stop the chanting in her mind
In spite of all the bruising that she felt
While desperately attempting to arrest
Her rolling on the hard slates on the roof.
She did not stop while hanging from the edge
Above the ground, her arms afire with pain.
She dropped to earth and rolled to ease the fall.
Her voice wrapped dragon roars and human screams
Into the chant she sang and tried to end
The fury overwhelming what the village
Had once been slumbering inside it peace.

She was no witch, she told herself, and still
She chanted witching words and reached for power
She’d never wanted, always shunned and fled.


Sshruunak felt Mmirrimann before he saw
The dragon horde above the village walls.
He threw himself toward the chanting witch,
Then turned as Mmirrimann came roaring down,
His claws extended as he tried to pierce
Shruunak’s black scales and end the village war.
Shruunak avoided Mmirrimann and tried
To understand the madness boiling skies
Alive with dragons fighting dragons, flame
And claws enraptured by the constant roar
And screams that made the universe unreal.

He’d never dreamed that Mmirrimann would lead
The caves to war against their sons and daughters.
His calculations had been wrong so often
That, even caught by rage, he knew his judgment
Was flawed so badly that he could not trust
The thoughts or feeling that were driving him.

He saw the human witch drop to the ground,
But then Ssruanne was diving at his wings.
He twisted as another flaming arrow
Unnaturally burned through his dense black scales.

He’d have to run. His followers would have
To fly toward the mountains where their lairs
Could not be found without a dogged search.
He roared, his pain so great it echoed like
A writhing snake into the village skies.

He started climbing, pumping wings in spite
Of how the flames upon his belly spread,
But then began to hover as he saw
The weirding clouds beyond the village wall
And dire wolves gleaming in unnatural light.
He saw the ending of the world of dragons
Foretold by Mmirrimann, despair so great
Escape was, like his life, like dragonkind,
A fantasy impossible to seize.

Fear clawed into his double hearts and made
Them beat arhythmically, the chaos singing
Inside the roiling clouds so powerfully
It overwhelmed his sense of who he was.

“Retreat!” he shrilled. “Retreat and fly away!”

His followers, disorganized and fearful,
Too many injured from the human’s arrows,
Began, as one, to climb above the battle
They’d started following Sshruunak’s black rage.
The fear Sshruunak had broadcast shocked their wings
Into a frantic flight toward the clouds
That boiled toward the village, whirling doom,
An ending, of the world that once had been.

To listen to this passage click on Retreat

Note: This is the forty sixth 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 Before the End of the World to read the passage before this one. To read the next passage in the epic, click on Living Inside Chaos.


Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis, Uncategorized

3 responses to “46. Retreat

  1. Anna Mark

    Beautiful writing, Thomas. Ruanne’s desire for power that she has always shunned is interesting and perhaps foreshadowing…? And then part 2 — the shocking retreat at Sshruunak’s request, his double hearts beating irregularly…fabulous.

  2. I especially love Ruanne’s chant – a message there for all time, all peoples.

  3. Julie Catherine

    Thomas, I too was fascinated by Ruanne’s chant, and rejoiced at Sshruunak’s retreat …. this epic is incredible, and such a treat to read and to hear you recite …

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