by Thomas Davis
Ruanne sat by the small triangle window,
The morning light a comfort past the storm.
She pumped the small wood loom and fed the strands
Of hair from mountain sheep into the shuttle,
Her hands in constant rhythm as she wove
Each row of heavy cloth into a rug
That metamorphosed howling winds and clouds.
She tried to concentrate upon the wisdom
Of Selen who, upon her loom, had woven
The weaving of a man and woman’s flesh
So human love could populate the world,
But all her efforts skittered like the beads
Of bear grease on a blazing, black iron pan.
Thoughts turned to images: Ruarther caught
By madness, storming from her life to wilderness,
Snow fields a glittering in morning light.
A knocking broke into her reverie.
She deftly tied the weaving so the row
Of gray and blue would stay in place for later,
Got up, and greeted Reestor at the door.
The old man looked pale, weary in the light,
His deep eyes ringed below white eyebrows sweeping
Toward white hair that covered half his forehead.
She smiled and stood aside to let him stomp
Into the cottage, cold around him biting
Into the room warm from the morning fire.
“You’re early for your rounds,” she said, her sadness
Surprising her inside her too soft voice.
Inside his heavy coat he looked more like
A bear than just a man, she thought. A wildness clung
To all the men who hunted for the game
That let the village live through winter storms.
She wondered if she ought to leave her cottage
And make the journey to the nearest town.
Ruarther was the one who’d kept her here.
But now? She smiled as Reestor growled as if
He truly was a bear. He shrugged his coat
Off shoulders strengthened by the years he’d spent
Outdoors before they’d made him village leader.
He walked toward the fire, put out his hands,
Then turned to look into her dark green eyes.
“I saw my father and my brother die,” he said.
“I didn’t live here then. I moved here later–
When Mother couldn’t stand the thought of Breenan.
Two dragons came upon the town all fire.
You seldom saw more than a single dragon then.
My father took his great long bow and hit
The older dragon, Pphhitin, in his one good eye.
The younger, Mmirimann, went wild
His breath so hot it fired the town’s wood roofs;
His claws sent dozens to their early graves.
“The great green brute not only burned our house,
But Mmirimann flung down upon my father,
The dragon killer, scorching flesh with fire.
He left the body black as smoky quartz,
So burned light seemed translucent through
The skull left bare without a shred of flesh.
The smell still visits me at night sometimes.
My brother tried to drive a metal spear
In Mmirimann, but didn’t have the strength.
The dragon swatted him away and speared
A broken rib into his young man’s heart.”
Ruanne stood silent, waiting. Reeston looked
At memories he’d long ago suppressed.
He suddenly looked up into her eyes.
“I don’t like kings,” he said. “The rich men live
Rich lives while those of us who find survival
In places where the rich would never live
Develop bonds much stronger than privation,
But Clayton’s Peace has given us good lives.
No human, or a dragon’s, died from war
For nearly all the years I’ve lived. But now…”
Ruanne still did not speak, but waited, spirit
So taut it seemed as if she ought to scream.
“We see more dragons in the sky each year,”
He said at last. “They have evolved, and we
Are still the humans that we’ve always been.
Ruarther’s craziness will stir their hearts
And bring about rage we have never faced.”
Ruanne let out the breath she’d held too long.
She shook her head. “I know,” she said. “But what?”
She paused. “The witch’s daughter shouldn’t die.
The children in the village shouldn’t face
The rage of dragon fire and raking claws.”
Determined, Reestor looked at her. “You know
The Dragon Songs,” he said. “You’ve heard them sung
Inside your head. You have to let them know
Ruarther’s left our village, lost his mind…”
“I’ve never said I hear the songs,” Ruanne said softly.
“I see it in your eyes, the way you shine inside,”
The old man said. “I’ve lived too long a life.
I hardly sleep, but still, you’re like the witch’s child.”
His words struck like a blow. She was a witch?
“Ruarther’s left me all alone,” Ruanne said.
“I’ve loved him since we both were children… babes…”
“He’s gone, Ruanne. You’ve got to let him go.”
“I’ve never spoken to a dragon, never…
They’ll never answer me… they’ll never hear…”
“You’ve got to try. The children don’t deserve
To die because Ruarther caused a war
That humans cannot hope to ever win.”
Ruanne escaped from Reestor’s burning eyes
And looked at where she’d sat upon the loom.
She shook her head. What could she really do?
She said a silent prayer to sagacious Selen.
She’d always forced the dragon’s songs away.
She was her mother’s child, not witch’s sister.
She’d known the mountain witch, but never once
Felt like they had a bond of flesh or blood…
She looked at Reestor, panic in her eyes.
She talked to dragons, villagers would drive
Her into wilderness, hate’s refugee.
The village children couldn’t die, not if
She had abilities that might protect them.
The old man looked past eyes into her heart.
Audio of Weaving and Dragon Song
Note: This is the twelfth 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. Go to 11 to read the section before this one. Click1 13 to go forward to the next section.