Tag Archives: battle

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

14. The Beginning of War

an epic poem by Thomas Davis


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!


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!”


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.


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.


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.


Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis


by Ethel Mortenson Davis

Written after hearing a Marine’s story
on British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio

The young marine tells his story.

In Falluja they struggled:
eye gouging
hair pulling
It would be a fight
to the finish.

The American noticed
the Iraqi was a very young man.
He could smell
the man’s breath,
taste his sweat,
feel the broken needle
in his shirt pocket.

The Marine wondered
why he had signed up.
He wasn’t prepared
to kill a man
with his bare hands.

Then the Iraqi bit
a chunk out of his hand.
The American reacted
with rage,
found his knife
in his pocket—
the same knife
he opened his ration bag with,

thrust it into the Iraqi
below his collar bone,
into the artery,
then pumped the man’s neck.

When life was almost out
of his eyes,
the Iraqi reached up
and gently touched
the American’s hair
and the side of his face.

originally published in I Sleep Between the Moons of New Mexico


Filed under Ethel Mortenson Davis, Poetry

Old Galrug, a Dragon Ballad

by Thomas Davis

Deep in the swamp inside a cave,
Inside obsidian
That rises shining from the mud
Beneath a midnight sun,
Old Galrug sits and broods about
When dragons have to run

From puny men so small and ugly
And insignificant
That dragons ought to have the strength
To breathe long flames and let the brunt
Of greatness cause a scurrying
By frightened, cowering runts.

But in the gloaming wilds where forests
Loom high above the ground,
Old Galrug, feasting on a stag,
Was startled by the sounds
Of horses jangling through the woods
And turned, his rage unbound.

His nostrils streamed with smoke and flame;
He roared alive the world.
The leading knight came charging through
The trees and swung and hurled
A shining strand of woven rope
Abruptly, swiftly curled

Around Old Galrug’s swaying neck.
His rage transformed to fright
As other knights came charging, ropes
Strung over ropes, winged flight
Impossible as yet more ropes
Bound wings to body, tight.

The knights drew swords and brandished them
As horses charged his flank.
The biting of the gnats drew blood.
He writhed his body, shrank
Away from blow that followed blow.
His raging mind grew blank.

As slashes, pricks of sharpened swords
Sucked life through grievous wounds,
He slashed his tail in his fear
And ripped his body from the goons
Surrounding him and ran into the forest’s
Twilit, welcome gloom–

And as he ran he shed the ropes
That bound his wings and tied
Him to the ground where men were loud
With rage and cursed his hide
And forced their frightened horses forward,
Hearts bent on dragoncide.

He flexed his wings and struggled up
Into the heavy air,
Blood flowing from his dozen wounds.
The cries of men’s despair
A music ringing in his ears,
He flew toward his lair.

But now, inside his cave, he brooded, thought
About the dragons killed
In wars as old as dragon-kind—
The way men gathered, filled
Themselves with dreams of bravery
And dragons’ heartbeats stilled.

Why did so many have to die?
He asked himself. He thought
About the solitary paths
That dragons always sought,
Protecting human gold and other wealth
Their wiles and cunning bought.

Our solitude is killing us,
He thought. It is our flaw.
Inside obsidian he blazed
Frustration as he saw
His weakness lay inside his self.
He gnashed his massive jaws

And spread his massive purple wings
And breathed his stomach’s fire
Into his throat and, wounded, sick,
Displayed his dreadful ire
By roaring at a midnight sun,
Expressing his desire

To end the plague of human brains
That worked to end his kind
And make the world a better place
For human hearts and minds
So they could live their sentience
While dragon life declined.

As fires built deep inside his belly,
He spread his purple wings
And launched into the sun-weird night,
His rage a dragon scream
That had no mind, no hope, no aim
Except destruction’s sting.

He flew inside his red-eyed pain
Until he found a human place.
He shrieked from skies, a shaft of hate
That hurtled, clawing grace
Into the humans screaming, running
As lives were smashed, erased.

Exulting in his power, hate,
Old Galrug tried to roll
Away from ground that loomed too fast,
But as he turned, the toll
Of injuries inside his hatred bled
A flaming aureole,

Filmed over eyes abruptly blind,
And struck into his hearts
As pain became the universe,
And life became a part
Of some lost dream that dragons dream
As life, at last, departs.

The dragon crashed into the ground
And wailing shivered skies
And dying humans reveled at the ending
Old Galrug faced, his cries,
Malevolence, now blind
As, wracked with pain, he died.

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Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis