pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis
pastel by Ethel Mortenson Davis
a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis
The shock of rage from cold black dragon eyes
Stunned through Ruarther like a wave unmanning
The man he once had been before he’d faced
Ssruanne upon his hunt inside the forest.
A second sight surrounded him and let
Him see the spirit bear who’d governed him
Inside miasma holding who he was
Together with intensity of hate
Directed at the witch, Wei’s mother, who
Was brewing constancy inside of chaos.
He saw the past, and how he’d cowered down
Behind the boulder with a frightened Cragdon
As black wings swooped from darkness at his life
And spewed out darkness in its raging hate
That wanted all humanity to die.
The dragon he had passed flinched azure scales
As blackness roiled into her mind and echoed
Into the other dragons in the snow
Around the rainbow human dragon, Wei.
Ruarther felt the threat inside the rage
And shook himself, the core of who he was.
He saw himself before the Old One, bow
Pulled back as terror raged inside of him.
He heard the Old One’s pleading words that tried
To move him to compassion for a child,
And flinched to feel him send an arrow’s flight
Toward a being who had meant no harm.
He felt the flame that blazed behind his back
And saw himself, as frightened as a deer,
Turn, run toward the deepness of the forest.
He’d never thought he’d ever be a coward,
But only cowards sought a spirit bear
So they could have the strength to leave themselves
And hunt a young girl child they could have saved.
He looked at where he was, his body pointed
Toward the capitol where Clayton lived.
He felt his fingers on the bowstring taut
With death aimed at the rainbow that was once
A child and felt Ruanne inside his mind.
He felt the love she felt for him in spite
Of all the madness that she knew possessed
The man he once had been, and felt the bow
Fall from his hands into the plateau’s snow,
The human dragon child, the rainbow dragon
Oblivious to who he was or where
He stood with deadly rage in front of her.
The chaos whirled around him as the bear
Discerned his presence in the roiling void
And lunged in desperation at the path
Now open to the earth he longed to see.
Ruarther did not flinch, but closed the path
Sshruunak had opened with his wave of rage.
He felt the fires and claws of war intrinsic
Inside the blackness that had made the dragons
Flinch from the rainbow miracle unfolding
In front of Wei’s small house below their caves.
He touched the beard now overgrown from weeks
Without a razor, tried to understand
The cowardness inside of who he was,
And felt the creeping of depression slide,
As subtle as a snake inside deep grass,
Into his arms and thoughts that dredged a loathing
He’d banished from his life while still a child.
But then he squared his shoulders imperceptibly.
He had a task to do. He’d always been
A hunter who had brought game when starvation
Was in the children’s haunted, frightened eyes.
He’d been afraid of dragon flame when he
Had failed to hear compassion in a dragon’s voice.
He’d failed the test of what it was to be
A human being as the test was taught by gods
And values buried in the life the village
Had passed through timeless generations.
He looked out at the dragons craning necks
And looking at the skies as if they dreaded
A message trumpeted into the day.
He knew his enemy, the night-black wings,
The flame that seared his flesh and nearly sent
His spirit to the grayness of the void.
He could not face Ruanne or those he’d known
And fed for all the years he’d spent alive.
He felt her as she warned the village, Reestor
Of war launched from a mountain valley out
Toward the place where sentinels for humans
Lived close to where the mountain dragons lived.
He saw that he had always been conflicted
Inside himself and turned the love he’d earned
Away and felt unspoken feelings never
Imagined by Ruanne, the villagers.
Awareness sapped already weakened strength.
He’d never make the village by the time
The warrior dragons started up their war.
No dragon on the plain’s white snow had spread
Their wings and taken flight, but everywhere
Eyes searched the skies and waited as the wave
Of blackness dissipated into air.
Ruarther looked at hands that held no bow.
They trembled slightly as he looked at them.
He turned toward the village, shrugged, and started
To run toward the home he’d always loved.
He hoped the dragons in the snow surrounding
The rainbow dragon did not mean to join
The war the night-black dragon meant to wage.
The village had no hope if all the dragons
Began to move against their human foes.
He had to pace himself; he had to try
To add his arms and wits against the storm
No human could escape once it had come.
To listen to this passage, click on The Shock of Rage
Note: This is the fortieth 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 To War! And Raging Dragon Hearts to read the passage before this one. To read the next passage click on Fate and Sentinels.
an epic poem, The Dragon Epic, by Thomas Davis
Ssruanne’s cry ripped through Mmirrimann and jerked
Him upright in his cave, his whirling eyes
So bright they made the morning light seem dim.
He moved toward his ledge and launched in flight
Like other dragons from their sheer cliff caves.
The sky was filled with dragons, colorful
And urgent as they flew toward Ssruanne.
As Mmirrimann flew violently toward
The cottage where the witch’s child was braving
The harshness of the winters’ cold and wind,
He saw an image of Sshruunak, black wings
A smudge above the icy mountain peaks,
Imagining his victory against
Ssruanne and Mmirrimann, his mind still not
Aware of all the forces lining up
Against the brightness of his shining dreams.
Then, heart beats wild, the ancient dragon felt
The place where grim shades gloamed inside the dusk.
He felt disintegrating history
As dragons failed into miasma’s cold.
He almost plummeted to earth to see
Ssruanne upon the ground beside a whirling,
Wild dance of colors where the human girl
Was changing from a human’s frail, small shape
Into a dragon’s powerful, full form.
The girl was melding spindly bones and flesh
Into hard scales that shined with rainbow light
That caught the morning sun and danced and whirled
With making so unnatural and weird
It made him want to flee to memories
Where life was how it ought to be and weirding
Was more a legend than reality.
He roared so loud he thought he’d strained his lungs,
But then he heard the other roars surrounding
The place of transformation, heard the fear
That raged into the morning’s clear, clean skies.
He spread his wings and landed as a hundred
Great dragons found a place to place their legs.
What madness had inhabited the world?
The dragons sat inside a massive circle
Around the human girl and felt her melding
As power danced out of her human heart
Into the thunder of a dragon’s hearts.
As time coagulated, formed, then flowed
Into the swirl of being, nothingness
Around the rainbow dragon, human girl,
Ssruanne began to hum deep in her chest,
Her song so deep it throbbed out of her bones.
Her song memed out into the other dragons,
Their voices oscillating through the snow,
The earth caught in the miracle arising
From where the nexus of the ether-world
Had linked into a weirding of reality.
The thrumming dragon song reverberated
Off mountain peaks and echoed through the caves
That sang the song into the valleys far
From where Ssruanne and Mmirrimann sat stunned
Upon the plateau climbing to the mountains.
What madness had inhabited the world?
Huge dragons, rainbow colored, like small hills,
Upon the whiteness of a winter’s snows,
Around a rainbow swirl of burning light
Shaped like a dragon never seen before
In all of space or time, hummed dragon songs
That seemed to fill the universe in time
And where the chaos of the swirling souls
Spun emptily past dragon memories.
What have I done? Ruarther thought. I am…
The golden dragon that had made him run
Away from her so long ago came down
And landed in the snow beside the child
Transforming from her small girl human shape
Into a swirl of light now dragon shaped,
And then another dragon landed, then
Another, then another, wings so loud
It made him deaf to any other sound.
The dragons closed around him, breaths so loud
It made him feel as if he’d chanced a storm
Too powerful to live through if he stayed
In place without a shelter from the winds,
But not one dragon even looked at him.
They landed, whirling eyes fixed on the light
That burned a rainbow dragon’s hearts alive
Into a life that could not really be.
Ruarther dropped his bow into the snow
And turned toward the forest evergreens
Around the cottage’s stone-earthen walls.
He moved around the dragons one by one.
They did not threaten him or even see
That he was like an ant inside their midst.
He felt the emptiness inside of him,
The absence of the spirit bear who’d lived
Inside his body longer than he’d dreamed.
He thought about Ruanne, her dark disgust
At how a man she loved could dream of killing
A child he’d never known or even met.
How could he have become that evil man?
What madness had inhabited his world?
The dragons did not frighten him or make
Him feel the way he’d felt the night the great
Black dragon had attacked him by the ledge.
He felt confused, afraid of whom he’d been.
He stopped. He could not go back to the village.
He’d never wanted anything so bad.
He wanted to forget the witch’s child
Burned like a brand inside his tortured spirit
And go back to the days when he had been
A hunter bringing game to feed the people
Depending on the skills he’d honed from childhood.
What had he done to him? he asked himself.
Inside the trees he still maneuvered slowly
Around the dragons mesmerized in snow.
To listen to this section of the epic, click on Mesmerized Cave Dragons.
Note: This is the thirty-sixth section 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 Determination, Doubt, and Dreams of Victory to go to the section previous to this one. To read the next passage, click on The Song of Becoming a Dragon.
by Thomas Davis
The morning light spilled on the floor and woke
Wei from a dreamless sleep. She yawned and stretched,
Got up into the cold of early morning.
She built a fire to take the chill away,
Then fried potatoes on the stove before
She shrugged into her heavy coat and stood
Before the door, her heart-beat loud, her hands
So still they felt as if they’d never move.
She felt her mother’s hands move through the air.
She let her hands move like her mother’s hands.
Light jumped into the early morning light.
Outside a hissing sound steamed through the air.
Wei stopped the motions, pushed against the door.
A wall of snow confronted her beyond
The space her light had made around the door.
She started weaving hands again, the light
Streamed from her fingers in the frigid cold.
Snow turned to steam, a whiteness hissing up
Into the morning’s crystal clear blue sky.
She walked toward the wood pile, open ground
Materializing as she slowly walked.
She felt triumphant, filled with victory.
The storm was gone, and she could make a path
Through seven feet of hard packed, drifted snow.
She’d make it through the winter storms and cold.
She was not just a little girl alone.
The Old One, tired from lack of sleep, went out
Onto the ledge outside her cave and launched,
her wings alive to currents in the air,
Her eyes so deep with seeing that the universe
Throbbed, blazing morning light, around her head.
She flew above the cabin where the girl
Was steaming snow into the morning skies.
The sight of magic shining in the sun
Unsettled her; the girl unsettled her.
A moment later, higher in the sky,
She saw two hunters, with their snowshoes sunk
Into the sweeping plains of drifted snow,
Strain up the mountainside, the snow too deep
To let them make the three day trek to where
The human girl was gathering her wood.
They’d be at least a week at struggling
Up slopes that steepened rising into mountains.
What should she do? She asked herself, disquiet
a power in the steady beat of wings.
What madness had the girl brought to the world?
She swooped toward the hunters, forcing them
To see her hurtling from the shining skies.
The hunters stopped and looked at her, dismay
And fright stunned through the way they stood and looked.
The one she’d singed raised up his arm and fist.
She tipped her wings and soared toward the mountains.
She flew above the cottage where the girl
Was loaded down with heavy chunks of wood.
She swooped so low she had to swerve to miss
The cottage roof, her whirling, golden eyes
Locked deep into the girl’s small human eyes.
Wei did not flinch or turn her head away,
But looked into the Old One’s eyes, a question
Unsaid inside her look. Ssruanne soared high
Toward the mountain peaks again, toward
The places where the wind blew unabating
In fierce intensity and moaning rage.
Wei felt the dragon’s wings before she saw
The eyes that coldly bored into her mind.
She felt intelligence inside the glare
And felt the dragon searching deep inside
Wei’s heart. She stood and watched the golden dragon
Fly up toward the mountains high above
The peaks that towered over where Wei lived.
She fought to memorize the dragon’s shape
And how it felt inside its golden eyes.
Inside the moaning winds the Old One sent her thoughts
Toward the human girl. Run child, she thought.
The hunter has his cunning and his bow.
The dragons have no love for human kind.
Child, run and hide, she thought. From all of us.
Audio: Not Just a Little Girl Alone
Note: This is the tenth 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 to the right under The Dragon Epic. Click on 1 to go to the beginning and read forward. Click on 9 to read the ninth section of the poem. Click on 11 to go forward one section.
by Thomas Davis
Ruarther stopped upon a ridge, the sound
Of dragon wings behind him rising up
Into the sky, his breath so short from running
He had to kneel and gasp, too trembling
To see the golden dragon fly away.
He’d been afraid, he thought. His mouth was dry
And stomach clenched against the memory.
He failed to force himself to move for minutes
That crawled like hours as he tried to see
Why he had turned and run when flame had sprouted
Out of the female dragon’s gut into the tree.
He’d always thought that he was strong enough
To face a dragon, look it in its eyes,
And force the beast to fear his human strength.
At last he got up off his knees and looked
At skies and snow clouds massing in the mountains.
He’d been away for weeks, the game so scarce
He hadn’t even used his bow, not once.
The village needed meat. Winds gathered
And soon they’d cover mountains deep in snow,
And then the herds of deer would head downhill
And hunting would become a test of stamina
So difficult that only full-grown men
Could hope to bring home meat enough to feed
The children, women, and the older men.
The dire wolves, black with yellow, shining eyes
Would find the village too, their hunger bright
Inside their growls and nightly moonlit howls.
The harshness of the winter world would batter
The villagers and make them long for spring.
Ruarther stopped his musing, turned toward
The village, started running with a long, sure stride.
Ruanne, the girl who thought he was a fool,
Would laugh to hear he’d run from dragon fire,
Confirming what she thought of him already.
He wondered at the dragon’s curious words,
The plea to save the witching girl, the meaning
Of dragons taking interest in a human’s life.
He couldn’t let Ruanne hear of his fear,
He thought. Her yellow hair and dark green eyes
Ran with him as he jogged past tree trunks massive
Inside the forest’s twilit canopy.
As night grew out of shadows on the ground,
He stopped and built a fire. The winter cold
Walked like a forest beast whose hunger burned.
He took his blankets from his leather bag,
Edged close to where the flames danced merrily
And closed his eyes, sleep letting him forget
The dragon, witch’s girl, his fear, his dread.
Before the sun had risen over mountains
He woke. He smelled a bear. He grabbed his bow.
The world was silent. No bird song, no breeze. . .
And then he saw the bear so huge it seemed
As if it was the spawn of dragons, brown
And shaggy in the darkness, dangerous,
Eyes glowing in the moon’s dim silver light.
Its eyes looked straight into Ruarther’s eyes.
A weirding chill iced deep inside his head.
The great bear stood on hind legs eight feet tall.
It made no sound, but stared and stared at him.
And then, inside his head, a rumbling voice
Said, “Humans should beware of dragon’s minds.”
He touched his ears; he had not heard a sound,
And bears did not have speech like dragons did.
He looked around. Light crept through trees.
He thought he heard the warning of a growl,
But when he looked back at the bear, the bear
Was gone, and birds were singing to the sun.
He sensed the snow clouds not yet in the sky.
The witch’s child! He thought. The dragon, then
The bear! Strange happenings that had a pattern
As if Old Broar had cast his bones and seen
The future through his cloudy, pale blue eyes.
It had to be the witch’s child aligning
The universe against the village peace.
A smallish doe walked through the trunks of trees
Not fifteen yards away. Without a thought
He notched an arrow, let it fly at her.
She startled, leaped, crashed dead into the ground.
He’d hunted for a week, and now he’d found
His prey and felled it with a single pull.
Rejoicing started flooding through his thoughts. . .
But then, he thought he smelled the bear’s rank smell,
Felt fierceness in the coming winter storm.
He’d have to warn the villagers, he thought:
Old Broar, Ruanne, the village leader Reestor. . .
He’d have to run through several long, hard days.
Strange times were on them, weirding times.
Note: This is the third section of a long poem I am skeptical about publishing in wordpress format. The story was inspired by John Keats’ tale in his narrative poem, “Lamia,” although this poem uses blank verse rather than the rhyming couplets Keats used. Click on the numbers to read earlier sections: 1, 2, 4.
by Thomas Davis
The old one, fierce inside her double hearts,
Kept flying high above the human child
As snow whipped down from caves and jagged peaks
Into the plateau where the cottage stood.
She’d sensed the mother’s death and saw the girl
Construct a grave of heavy, rounded stones
And watched her as she harvested the garden,
Trapped rabbits, drying pelts outside the shed,
And fished in waters tumbling down the mountainsides.
At night, inside her cave where hot springs bubbled
From rocky walls, the old one’s dreams were filled
With how the human child looked as she faced
Her lonely life with only dragons flying
Above her to and from the caves set deep
In slopes so steep the mountain goats avoided them.
The dreams were like a fever, always there—
The human child so slight compared to dragons,
But real beyond what any child could be,
Her face emaciated, body starved.
Each day she flew above the cottage roof
She saw the child had made a fire and managed
To get herself through yet another night
As cold raged like a dragon spewing fire.
The humans in the valley far below
The girl stayed in their village, hunting deer
And other game, including goats the dragons
Depended on when winter frosted dragon hides.
The old one kept imagining they’d leave
Their cottages and climb the mountainside
To fetch the girl into their small white houses,
But days passed, weeks passed, a month, and then more weeks
And no one seemed to think about the girl.
At last, her dreams more powerful than ever,
The old one swooped down on a hunter far
From where the village was, her mind on fire.
The man was bigger than most humans were.
He had an arrow notched and stared at her
As wings threw shadows on the snowy ground.
“I know enough to shoot into your eyes!”
He screamed while standing tense before her scales.
She snorted smoke and dug into her memory
For human words she’d learned to use against
A foolish knight who’d sought to find her lair
In days when gold and jewels made her feel
The blazing glory of her dragoness.
Her honeyed words back then had brought him close.
He’d felt the deadly heat of dragon flame.
“The plateau woman’s dead,” she said, her voice
As guttural as water rumbling down a cliff.
“Her child’s alone and needs your human help.”
The hunter’s eyes glared fear and hate at her.
He looked as if he didn’t know if he should flee
Or stay and fight a battle to the death.
“A child?” he asked, voice hard, fear in his breath.
He seemed to search his memory to see
If he could understand what made a dragon
Concerned about a girl, a human child.
“The child above your village in the cottage,”
The old one said. “The little, lonely girl.
She needs your help to get her through the winter.”
“A little girl?” the hunter asked. His eyes grew large
As understanding dawned. “You mean the witches’ child?
The one who lives below the dragon caves?”
The old one’s fires stirred deep inside her throat.
She rumbled even though she tried to still
Her double hearts to keep the hunter calm.
“What foolishness,” she said. “A witches’ child.
What does that mean? A human is a human.
She is a girl, a human girl, and humans
Should have enough humanity to care
About their children when they face starvation.”
The hunter, frightened, drew his bowstring back
And shot an arrow at her shining eyes.
She turned her head and let the arrow bounce.
She roared her rage and sent a spume of flame
Toward the foolish man and set his beard
To smoking as the tree behind him whooshed
Into a puff of angry, flaring flame.
The hunter turned and ran as if he’d seen
The end of time confront him in the woods.
The old one sat and looked at emptiness.
What was a human child to her? she asked.
She’d lived through generations of the villagers.
What was a human child to her? She spread
Her wings and lifted heavily to sky.
She flew above the cabin, saw the little girl,
An axe blade swinging at a chunk of wood.
You humans are a clutch of stupid fools,
The old one thought. She flew up to her cave
And hoped she’d sleep without her troubling dreams.
To listen to this section of the epic, click on The Old One.
Note: This is the second section of a long poem that I am skeptical about publishing in wordpress format. The first section was published in this format earlier as “Dragonflies, Dragons, and Her Mother’s Death.” The story was inspired by John Keats’ tale in his narrative poem, “Lamia,” although this poem uses blank verse rather than the rhyming couplets Keats used. Click on the number to go to an earlier or later section: 1, 3.