The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis
Ruarther woke to sunlit cold, his head
So sore he felt as if his life was bound
Inside the thrumming pain that made him scowl.
The burns were gone from arms, legs, chest,
And though he felt as if he could not move,
His spirit rose to know that he’d survived
The night black dragon and its searing flame.
The fire beside the boulder smoldered, smoke
Still rising from the cold, gray, lumpy ash.
He stirred up from the hollow in the snow
He’d made for sleep and, groaning, found his pack
And put a slice of jerky in his mouth.
The goat was strong beneath the heavy spice,
But he had never tasted food so good.
He was alive and eating, wolfing meat
That tasted like sweet honey to his tongue.
He looked toward the campfire, felt the cold,
And thought he’d build it up and warm his hands,
But then he picked his pack up, shouldered it,
And started climbing through the dazzling fields.
He’d not find where the witch’s cottage was
Before the sun blazed down, he told himself.
He’d better move before his will had failed
And warmth became the cause for lethargy.
He’d never kill the child by staying put.
The surface of the snow had frozen hard.
He moved as swiftly as his legs could move.
The walking cleared his head and made him feel
As if he’d found his humanness again.
He thanked the spirit bear inside his mind,
Exhilarated at the strength he felt.
But then, just miles from where the cliffs rose black
Into the winter’s white, he stopped, confused.
The air in front of him looked charged, a mass
Of swirling chaos threatening to end
The world’s solidity with nothingness.
He felt the bear rear up inside the chaos,
Felt snow and fields and light sucked into dark.
A woman, waving hands, had somehow grabbed
The bear with energies Ruarther felt,
But could not see, a battle raging far
Beyond his senses even though he sensed
The powers devastating what was real,
Miasma threatening existence anchored
To life he’d always thought was all that was.
He stepped back as the chaos inched toward
Where he had stopped, the swirling wild with songs
Originating from beyond existence.
A greater fear than what he’d felt the day
He’d faced the golden dragon seized his heart
And made it beat so fast he could not breathe.
He saw the bear’s face waver in the light
And then the woman’s weaving web of hands
As death came from its natural place and tried
To build a portal to Ruarther’s world.
He wondered why he’d left his days-old camp
To face a wilderness he’d thought was myth
Made up by women and old, doddering men.
The great bear turned away from chaos, stared
At where Ruarther stood in front of him
Inside the realness of the real world
And leaped toward the body with a heart.
The witch is doing this, Ruarther thought.
The witch! He tried to dive away from where
The bear had aimed his leap, but even though
He moved as fast as any human could,
Convulsions ripped his consciousness.
He fought against the spirit entering
His spirit, tried to be the self he was,
But in his mind the great bear roared and roared.
Time wavered as the sunlight flared, then died,
Then flared alive again, the chaos mixed
With life’s stability, existence swelling
With spectres lost beyond the boundaries
Of what could ever be or come to be.
The child, Ruarther raged inside himself,
The witch’s child had made the dragon mock
Him as he hunted in the woods that day,
And now she’d witched the bear into his spirit.
He’d kill the child, he roared. He’d kill the girl.
The spirit in him roared against his roar.
Ruarther felt the self he knew recoil
As chaos swirled into his head and bones.
I’m stronger than the bear, he snarled inside.
His heart beat crazily, his fear
The only rage that kept him from possession,
The end of who he was, a human man.
I’ll kill the girl, he chanted in his head.
The witch’s girl is dead. I’ll kill the girl.
The great bear twisted as it fought to find
A place away from where the woman’s hands
Wove order out of chaos in chaotic song.
Ruarther twisted painfully in snow
So cold it seemed to burn his throbbing flesh.
He felt as if he was inside a furnace,
The brick kiln burning with a glowing heat,
His skin so sensitive it seared with pain,
As if he’d touched a fiery red-hot coal
And spread its agony across his face,
Hours blistering into eternity.
The bear retreated from the searing pain,
Life’s sharpness shredding who it was
Into the emptiness of air and sky.
Chaotic swirling dissipated like a mist.
The sunlit cold possessed the world again.
Ruarther, body still, stunned, felt his life
Inside the who of who he was, a man.
Splayed out upon the snow, he wondered how
He’d ever thought he had the strength to kill
A witch so powerful she had the force
To bend a dragon’s spirit to her will.
He could not countenance that he still lived
Outside of deathless chaos in his world.
To listen to this section of the epic, click on Escaping Possession.
Note: This is the twenty-sixth section of a long narrative poem, which has grown into The Dragon Epic. 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 25 to go to the section previous to this one. Go to 27 to read the next section.