by Thomas Davis
The Old One flew past layer after layer
In dreams so vivid that they seemed to smell
Of human sweat around a blazing fire
Inside the villager’s great meeting hall.
The hunter she had found out in the woods
Was pacing like a spirit bear whose rage
Had left the spirit world and slipped
Inside the human by the fireplace, hands
And gestures punctuating madness, fear.
“The witch’s child has stirred the dragons up!”
The big man roared. “The time for peace is done!”
The Old One twisted, tossed upon her bed
Of earth-warmed stone. The storm outside was raging
With winds so strong they moaned across the peaks
And slammed down slopes into the valley where
The young girl Wei slept quietly in bed.
She’d riled the hunter up, she thought. Infected
By fear she’d thrown at him with fiery breath,
He’d lost his sense of who he was and snarled
In desperation at his memories.
“Ssruann! Ssruann!” Her daughter’s rumbling voice
Cut through the layers of her dream and forced
Her from the village back into her cave.
She opened up her eyes and saw her daughter’s
Bright azure eyes above her in the dark.
The dream still heavy in her mind, she blinked
Before she spoke, then stretched her golden neck
Into the frigid air, her daughter’s eyes
Intense upon her waking, looking sharp
And piercing at her dissipating sleep.
Mmlynn has gotten larger than I am,
She thought, or else, she smiled inside, I’ve shrunk.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, her voice so loud it echoed
Inside the cavern of the stone walled cave.
Her daughter’s eyes kept staring, making
The Old One feel unnerved by youth’s strong passions.
Her daughter looked away and glanced toward
The tunnel dug between the Old One’s outer lair
And caves dug deep into the mountainside.
“Your roaring woke the dragonlings,” she said,
Then paused… “and others in a dozen lairs.”
“I’ve been asleep,” the Old One said. “I’ve roared?”
“You’ve dreamed?” her daughter asked, dread in her voice.
The Old One looked outside into the storm.
“I’ve heard you for a month,” her daughter said.
“Tonight it’s gotten out of claw and tooth.”
She paused, her sense of dread so strong it filled
The air inside the cave. “Prophetic dreams.
You’re having dreams foretelling tragedy.”
She paused, then added quickly, “Everyone
Inside the mountain knows what’s going on.”
The Old One looked into her daughter’s eyes
And tried to find the words she’d have to say.
Prophetic dreams could stir the dragon spirits,
Unsettle life inside the mountain, force
Change, roaring, breathing fire, into the world.
She slowly got up from her bed and felt
The aches of old age deep inside her bones.
“We need to bring the human girl up here,”
She said. “I’m dreaming of the human girl.”
A tiny ball of flame puffed out of Mmlynn.
Shock stunned into her eyes and azure face.
“She’d die up here!” she said, her voice severe.
“No dragon’s ever let a human climb
Within a mile of any outer cave!
The males would murder her before she drew
A single breath inside a single lair!”
The Old One walked toward the opening
To look into the storm that moaned and raged
Down cliffs and plummeting, long slopes of rock.
“I know,” she said into the moaning wind.
“But change has come, and dragonkind will change,
Or else the village humans will become
Like ravers with a rage too strong to stop.”
She paused, her voice so strong it magnified
The noise the wind made as it swept up snow.
She turned back to her daughter, forcing down
The roaring in her voice. “The girl is strong,
But weak,” she said at last. “I’ve tried to stop
The dreams, but every night they’re more intense.”
Mmlynn kept staring at her mother. Dreams
By dragons who had lived so long, that came
From layers far below their consciousness,
Could never be ignored. Their prophecies
Came from the minds of all the dragons living
Inside the mountain’s winding tunnels, caves.
Her mother, even when she’d been too young
To be a dragon dreamer, had the dreams
No dragon dared dismiss if dragonkind
Could keep their ancient sentience and will.
“We’ll need a conclave then,” she said, her voice
So small it disappeared into the air.
Ssruann looked at the remnants of the dreams
That floated, pale with images, inside her mind.
“They’ll want to kill the child,” she said, her question
Of why she cared posed when the hunter fled
Still in her voice. “When frightened, every life
delivers death to try to stay alive.”
Mmlynn turned back toward her dragonlings.
“They will,” she said. “No matter what you say.”
She left. The Old One turned back to the storm.
How could the child survive? she asked herself.
Alone, a winter worse than any one before,
The village humans building rage against
A human child that they had never seen—
She turned back to her bed. What could she do?
She asked. What magic did the child possess?
What madness plagued her through unwanted dreams?
The storm would end, she thought. It had to end.
And then? The question settled in the cave.
Note: This is the sixth 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 to reach other sections, or go to the Categories box under The Dragon Epic. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Go to 7 to reach the next section.
The Old One Audio