Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there was a creature so deadly and terrible that none could ever defeat it in combat. It roared and stamped with claws like iron tillers, its tail a lion’s, long and lashing, its breath was fire, its scales terrible burnished gold, its eyes like rolling, deep dark pits that swallowed the soul of whoever gazed upon them.
No man could face it without immediately falling prey to these horrible advantages, no matter what courage they had, its eyes would paralyze them. No matter what weaponry they carried, its scales would turn it aside. No matter what armor they wore, nothing could turn aside flame. It seemed as though the countryside would forever be torn asunder by the terrible paws and claws of this great beast, and decades went by with no true solution. Sacrifices never appeased it. There was no stopping it from taking what it wanted of the fields and the cattle of the people.
There came a time when, of his own accord, a champion went out to meet it when all champions were long thought dead. No, to call him a champion would be too generous; though cloaked he was in finest wool, he had with him no apparent weaponry. Though hooded and fair of voice– fair as could be asked of any maiden, even– he seemed to have no assets with which he planned to slay the creature. More like to call this man suicidal.
Yet he went out to it, this great savage beast, went out, stood before it as it feasted on caught cattle, and hailed it thus: “Good day!”
It ignored him til he had called out thrice more.
“Good day! Good day, I say!”
Finally it turned to regard him with eyes, eyes that surely would paralyze. The townsfolk that watched, they watched from afar, worried and sure that this man would be gobbled up in an instant. They dared not hope for any better.
“Who is it who speaks? Who is it who addresses me so, in so sweet a voice? Another fine human to rend and to eat? Was the last of your kind not enough of a treat?”
The cloaked, hooded figure sways not from his course. “It is I who spake thus,” he says, quite plain. “It is I who would talk not once, but again.”
“There shall be no ‘again’, you miserable louse. I am the cat, and you are the mouse.”
With that the beast pounces and bites and gnaws. At first it seems that it has him in claws, hooked here or there through the parts of his cloak which before seemed imposing, now shred, fabric broke.
It leaves but a maiden, standing with earthen hair, her skin shaded first with blue and then red, dyes that run over her skin– even head! Tattoos seem to cover her from head to toe, and bare though she is it doesn’t seem to show.
“What manner of human-like witchery is this?” The beast utters first, clearly most miffed. Its eyes dart here, or there over her form.
The maiden folds across her chest two lithe arms, gazes back up with eyes like twin storms, of blue and of green, they crackle as she stands.
With inner strength bold and courage so bright, she faces down the creature until on comes the night. Her tattoos glow then, even in dark, shining, transfixing until the call of the lark. The beast seems to snap from its cold reverie, shaking its mane once, and then twice.
“I could but crush you with the flick of a paw,” it growls down at her, baring its jaw filled with teeth to cut her to shreds. “If you answer falsely I’ll do it, I will, so be still little human while I have my fill- of information from you or your next of kin, should I kill you the same, in a fit.”
“Ask away,” she murmurs shyly, her smile so bright. It eclipses her tattoos and turns back the night.
“How is it you resist the power of my stare? What drives you to push it all back?”
“Not how, dear beast, but what is the answer– and simple I think, for one such as I. I am a witch, empowered and strong, and that is that, true as true- can be. As to what drives me to confront you here– the land here is near to me, near and dear– I’d sooner tear out my own heart in your stead then sit and and suffer with the land and its dead.”
“Why have you not come forth before, if exception to my actions you took?” The beast’s voice is soft now, to match the little witch, soft and yet deadly inside. Its eyes search for the source of her power, sure that within her it hides.
“I was born but yesterday, out and away in the Mother’s good arms. I took to my own as soon as I could but I still needed time to grow; twice and again I’ve sought you since then and now I’ve come to show you.”
“What will you show?” the beast asks sharply, curious despite its urges- to seize and destroy her with teeth tongue and flame is all that lurks in its head. Without her tattoos it’s sure she would lose, that it would rend her instead.
“A simple enough trick, for one such as you- I propose a game.”
It scoffs and sighs, but in her eyes the beast reads no sign of jest. “Fine, little witch. Command as you wish, and I shall put it to test.”
“Be forewarned that when this game is through, I will have put you to rest.”
“We shall see,” it growls and swishes that lion’s tail it has. The witch then smiles, as if sure of her wiles, and holds a hand up to her head. She mutters a phrase, cold as black days, and changes to the Dragon Father’s child.
Her form is great, as great as the sea, with scales at least half as blue. Her grin razor sharp, she laughs in the dark as the clouds spill into the sky
to shroud it.
The beast unimpressed, stretches and yawns, grinning back with eyes cold as space. “You frighten me not, maiden fair as you were, for the Father of Dragons is agape. Take back your shape if your hide you do value, or soon he shall come and be wroth– vengeance then wrought, he’ll nail what you sought out of spite for those you now seek
With a rumbling, the maid sways not, she stares it back down with a snort of cold flame, lips peeled back to reveal, unashamed, her teeth like daggers. “I fear not the father of worms such as you, or the shape that I take or the threat of a scaly stew! I ask you once and ask no more: take a form greater or leave this tilled floor
The beast laughs out loud, a hideous sound, snaps its foreclaws and in a flash is all bound up in fiery chains that snap and obscure its devilish form from sight. When they again lift its form is in shift, growing massive, greater even than the maiden’s new height.
“How do you find me?” its breath is a roar, its voice thunders forth in such force that it doubles and redoubles o’er the world, bouncing, echoing and rumbling again
The maid seems afraid as she looks, up at its devilish features. The burnished gold scales of its twin writhing tails and the fur that line their tips look like spines now so large is the beast before her. She seems to tremble–
–but lets out a giggle
a giggle that turns into a full-throated laugh. The maid-dragon sighs and in a flash dries the earth all ‘round her to ash. Magic bursts forth, wild and terrible, covering her head toes and claws. Her body rolls and rocks and shifts, squirms and writhes and grows to a size ne’er broached before. Now it is the beast’s turn, small as a kitten by comparison to a tiger, sitting before her and mewling in a whisper, a whimper of a voice before her. From the maiden’s eyes comes a pitiless glare that paralyzes the creature where it stands.
The villagers shout! Is victory not near? Surely she’s beaten this terrible beast! With the creature struck down and its influence profoundly
they will prosper again.
Abruptly it ends, this victory cry. What is she doing now? The maiden in size shrinks down to her former self, her body loses all of its scales. Tattoos dot her again, covering her head to toe. Her eyes are calm though the village can’t see it, her eyes are as calm as the sea.
She smiles as the creature reaches down to swipe for her, and stops its paw with a hand, effortlessly.
“Come now beast,” she whispers soft. “Is this all you truly can muster?”
It roars its frustration and drawing in breath, lets it out in thunder
of black rolling
Fire leaps high, high towards the sky as the plains around her catch fire, but the maid just laughs, laughs and laughs, welcoming the heat with a smile. Her eyes are bright and burning ash gleams in her grin, on her teeth and on those razor thin lips of hers.
The beast stares down at her, paw raised once more, as if to dash her to pieces,
but the maid will not move
she will not move
she does not move
she stands where she is, her palm held out
to block a second roar
it never comes
no the beast never roars
again in anger or spite
it sits there instead
to be walked or led
about town under cover of night.
Under cover of night, the maid leads it forth
To the center of the town square.
To the villagers around as the morning is crowned
With the sun’s bright beams so gay
Her eyes flash gold and, with her story told
A party they do array
When celebration ends and the night descends
They fall over themselves
in bidding this maid to stay
“On one condition will I stay here with you,”
She says to them before the sun fully sets
“To guard forever and always. Let my husband be
This beast you see
Who set fire to your fields but previously
A day, or less ago.”
The villagers are distraught
This beast she means not to slay?
Its terror struck even the bravest of men!
Its breath was unweatherable! Its rage terrorized the village– all villages!– for miles upon miles while the nobles did nothing!
Now such a strumpet says it must live?
But the villagers know should she wish she could grow, she could tower above them and strike them to ash, each and every one with but the threat of a glance.
So silent they are, as silent as they can, their eyes all wide as she makes clear her demand.
“I wish there be room for this beast to sleep; for the first six days and more we shall bed, and then I shall release it to the wild instead. Tamed and mine in heart and soul, the beast will guard you, brave and bold. Let me have this or I shall go, and the things I have done will mean
They don’t dare refuse her, so the beast then stays, and in a stable the pair of them sleep.
The first of the days the beast wakes up in ways it never imagined before. The maid by its side, its thick golden hide is replaced by skin of the same hue, but soft and comfortable to lie in and on.
Its mouth opens and shuts, and the maid she does stir, so it thinks better of attempting escape. What has this girl done to its scales so sweet, to the metal that once covered it in sheets? It does not know but cares not to find out, and in its head it hatches plans of retreat. It’ll dart off in the night as it sure must be right, to find some more knights to eat. It’ll grow a new hide to polish its stride and assist in protecting its skin.
The chance never comes as the day goes by, the maid leads it everywhere you see– she has fashioned a lead made from leather and reed and tied it to the edges and frays
of its mane.
“Such a strange girl,” a villager says, to another standing by the main way. “Where are her thoughts of marriage and devoted
instead there are tattoos
“She is the one who tamed the Calthrax and I’ll bet she has spellbound its heart; no earthly magic could sunder the will the way that she has done with this one. I’ll wager divinity lurks in her step, in her stride hides the will of the gods.”
“Foolish talk! A tramp who sleeps with beasts,
to make them stop their attacks
what honor is there in this woman
what honor is there in that?”
The voice rings out at last from the crowd who parted to let her through, and up stands a man garbed all in silk, his eyes a ruddy red hue.
“Let me speak,” the fair maiden says as he makes his intrusion. “Let me speak and I shall clear your head of all confusion.”
The man’s silk robes flow in the wind as upon her form he stares, then he laughs and throws back his head, laughs as a man with airs.
“Foolish girl,” he says with a sigh, still chuckling to his own little tune. “Your charms won’t work on a wizard as old as I. Go back to your vale in the cool and the pale where the shadows and monsters lie– return to your grove little nymph, little witch, I’ll have no truck with you- not here in this village that the beast tried to pillage while away on a trip I was due.”
“Due what?” she asks, unperturbed by his voice, staring him down once more. The beast behind her makes a low little rumble, a sound both of the magi ignore. “Trip where o’ wizard, who hails from the city out away by his estate? I came and I saw and I saved your town, and in return you treat me with hate?”
“Equate not dislike for you and your ilk for ingratitude, little witch. I am indebted despite all I’ve said and I mean to repay by the stitch. But when I have paid and the debt is then gone I demand that you are gone also; every moment you stay here defies my will and the look of you strains me
“Flee I’ll do when I’m dead, old man, if for you my image is grating- I bid you away or turn quick your head, for my stay will never be abating. This village I claim as my own new vale, I can never return where I was. Away with you, wizard, your ways do not scare me, away and be done with your threats! This village is not yours to do with as you please, no matter your papers- or hateful epithets.”
“Little witch,” says he, the wizard so-called, with a start and a step forward sharp. “You cut me so, to say to me
What you do.
I ask again and again now only,
Go home to the grove you once knew.
The patience I have, while boundless at heart
Will bear not the tone
Of your wily whim or the fear
A pause and then, with manner wrought of silk and spiderwebs, the maiden answers the wizard and in her heart
there seems to be
“So this is how
A wizard doth truly
His debts,” The maiden fair says, quietly and lowly as the smallest of mice might squeak.
Her eyes are downcast, manner demure as she stares then down at her feet. Whatever rage or fire within her seems to have reached a peak
Or a crest
Or a boiling pitch
And fallen back down on itself.
The wizard and his smile
Filled up with guile,
Stand there waiting for her
When she does not he grows impatient, stamping his own foot.
“When will thou go?” he snaps in rage, those eyes of his they flare.
“Never did I say I would leave!” she cries, plainly surprised at his tone. “When will I go? When won’t I go? Ask me that then fair wizard! Should not a maid do just as she pleases and go where she should in her mind? If thou art so sure that thy own self is pure, I tell thee to cast all thy stones. Hurl thy magic and smite me down, if thy pointy shoes are so clean!”
The wizard on his pointy shoes doth rise, fire in his eyes now, fire in his eyes.
“The cheek!” he roars, and rolls up his sleeves. “Take thy place, girl, on your knees.”
The last word with magic inside doth seethe, it rolls forward and out and plays to keep,
the maiden on her toes, lashing here and lashing there, like fire, like a whip that snaps, aims to snare.
The maiden is on her toes, she dances ‘round once,
she dances ‘round again, avoiding that word like a plague
or a spark
laughing like lightning
laughing in sparks and flames
and dance through the air
in her eyes
in her heart
The beast behind her snorts and rears, barely containing itself
Its baleful gaze descends
on wizard and witch
“What ill will bear you to me
What terrible thing have I done?”
The words, out of place on the witch’s lips seem
But the words voice curiosity
“Stand still and die, little witch, little nymph. You do not deserve to know! I will not, shall not, cannot tell you
and there’s nothing for me to show to you
Sickened at heart
With eyes still aflame
The maid turns once
and turns yet again, whirling in place to let fly with vines that snake from her arms in ink and in lines
Traced from tattoos that writhe on her skin, alive and snake-like and seeking their kin
in the veins of the wizard who gasps in rage and flings forth his power to send to the grave
this nymph who defies him, who taunts his thoughts
who lingers in his heart
and has hooks inside him
whose snakes bite and strike– he snaps out.
The power snaps out and lashes a side– the Beast who in anger between them did stride, ignoring the collar closed tight ‘round its neck, ignoring the pain from the blow it’d been struck, ignoring the pain that inside it is stuck, rebound and coiling ‘tween skin and scale, where insides and nerves and organs do quail.
Never in all of its life has a pain
Like this one been dealt to it
and in a vain
moment of rage, its tail whips forth
to break the wizard
Its tail rebounds from a shield of some make
Of force and of magic and frail hope– which breaks
as the wizard’s power fails as he stumbles on back, as he looks on aghast at the beast’s spiny back
at the monster before him
at the spines and the skin
the golden and bronze
the golden skin.
The wizard snaps out at the nymph yet again, lashing with power drawn from no ken
of man or of beast, both would have died
but the creature before him impeding the stride
of his magic
is in waves
upon the ground
A quake in the village builds as the creature lashes out in time
Each writhing twisting, flailing limb
dredging up swaths of the earth
and rime from the mist
to the ground.
Tormented stone and cobbles break
The wizard and nymph alike are pelted
Their forms aghast with fright as the form of the creature
It falls away, disappearing
Like morning mist
In a breeze
on her knees.
By turns yet curious
The both of them are
Wizard and nymph stand side by side
To regard the girl from afar
Both of them move
At once and in unison
Both of them move right away
The nymph to comfort
The wizard to study
But both sure to have their way.
“Gentler, fool, she’s been through much,” the nymph hisses over shoulder and bareness of back.
“You’ll break her with your cold tack,” she snaps.
“Break her? Hardly! My lust for knowledge
Knows well its bounds.
I merely think an enchantment so steep
Must be studied and kept, so to speak
Too dangerous outside where that ‘chantment
Near to its peak.”
The wizard is cool and calm and collected, for all that inside terror burns. What great magic forced a girl to wear a form like that? This, then, a shadow confirms.
A shadow so great, so colossally huge, that it blots out the sun from the sky. Wings stretch out mightily, a monster shakes a head
like a cave, with jaws open wide.
The silhouette fades with a tremendous crash, with a shriek like the sun cleaved in twain. The King of all Dragons, his honor besmirched, comes only to avenge
the dishonor done.
A fear drives through her, the maid and the girl, as they stare up to the creature above. Its eyes are stars and its breath is fire
The wizard himself seems unafraid, unabashed, as he stands there brazen as day.
The Dragon King, his grin–
like the surface
of the sun–
let him have
“SO THESE ARE THE MORTALS WHO DARE DEFY ME!”
The Terrible King doth roar.
“A NYMPH, A WIZARD, A BROKEN LITTLE GIRL MAKES THREE. IS A HUNDRED LESS OR MORE?”
The nymph responds not, the girl frozen as well, her whole form rigid with fear. The wizard, clever and crafty as ever, is the one to talk now, and it’s the effort in his voice that’s near
Any can see that his legs quake and shake, any can see how afraid he must be.
He opens his palms in a gesture of peace, and makes quick with what he needs
“Great Dragon King, we wished you no harm, though yesterday the nymph stole your form. Pray take from us anything just, and leave our lives to their norm. With all respect due we can pay back in time, for the pride of the King of all wyrms. Please, o lord, leave us our bodies that the debt to be paid is fair.”
“WHAT COULD BE FAIRER THAN LIFE FOR LIFE? YOU STOLE A PORTION OF MINE; IF WHEN, IN PAYING, I TAKE ONE OF YOURS, SHOULD NOT THAT BE IN GOOD TIME,
AND GOOD PLACE?
HERE AND NOW, I SAY, AND ‘JUST’ AS JUST CAN BE– GIVE ME THE NYMPH, THE BLESSED LITTLE WITCH, AND I SWEAR I SHALL LEAVE YOU ALL AS YOU ARE,
AND ALL AS YOU BE.”
The wizard steps aside, but the beast steps up, in the form of the girl as she is. She shakes and shivers, plainly confused about what
and where she is.
Still she speaks, once and again, as around her the world dims and blurs. The attention on her is too much, not enough, and her eyes are filled with tears
“You-!” she calls, unsure and unright with the way that her words fall out. “You can’t take her, she’s mine to keep! I fought and for her as well! If beaten in combat by any but me, these feelings I’d never be able
Back to your lair, lord o’ the wyrms! Back and trouble me no more! Show your tail, turn and run, leave this place like the one
that you found
The King of the Dragons, with massive, great snout, with a lazy and terrible grin, says one thing in response to the girl-from-beast, says one thing nice and slow:
“NO. STEP ASIDE LITTLE GIRL, UNLESS YOU WISH AS WELL TO BE
A MEAL IN MY LAIR
OR A SNACK
BETWEEN MY TEETH.”
The girl shakes and whimpers where she stands between the two, the maiden who challenged her beast-self and the Dragon who defies her desire.
Still uncowed, amazed of herself, she stands strong before the nymph who beat her, glaring up at her foe, arms spread wide.
“Breathe your flames or
Make your threats
I shall not stand aside.
She is mine and mine alone
As I like!”
The Dragon King, old as the sky, stares down at the defiant beast turned girl, and laughs
A heartbeat passes, many, many more.
The Dragon King rears onto his haunches all at once,
his eyes flashing red like the heart of the sun
his scales flashing blue like the deepest of seas
the groaning of dragonskin
is the only sound heard
apart from the shaking
of mortal knees.
“YOUR DEVOTION IS TOUCHING,” he says with a smile, a serpentine grin.
“BUT STILL I WILL WIN. IF YOU WON’T STEP ASIDE YOU’LL BE LOST IN THE DIN
OF MY FLAMES.”
The thought of the fiery, terrible breath turning them all to ash
still does not
put the beast in her place
still does not
make her step
to one side
or the other. Her eyes are determined and her stance is strong
though her body shakes like the leaves
in a storm
too young to weather
A hand on her shoulder makes her stop and turn,
a hand makes her turn in her place
to regard the nymph
with a pale
and a quivering form,
her eyes flashing anger
“Why do you suffer all this for me, beast I beat and struck aside? Why do you move to help? Let me go with him and meet my own fate- you’re nothing more than a whelp.”
“‘Please yourself’ is what I would say, if I thought I could push it aside. You thwarted me though, you struck me down, and it is for this reason
I will not hide.
I will not save you for any new oath
but the one which i lay down:
if anyone eats you
maid of the grove
it’ll be me, not some
The beast shrugs off the nymph’s placating hand, shrugs it off and stares with intent
at the leader of all flying wyrms.
“Go home, scaled one,” she says with a flat
but true steel edge to her voice. “I’m not frightened of you or the things you might do
I fear not the touch of your fire. Fly free and fast, away from this place, or suffer the might of my ire.”
As the King of Dragons’s eyes turn sharp, as they narrow with sudden hate,
the beast of the farlands shrugs off her curse,
her human form starts to abate.
Golden in skin, sleek as a tiger, larger than mountains could warrant,
she grows to a height to match one she’d taken
when battling the nymph of the grove.
Her claws launch forth and out from her fingers, she stands on four and then six legs at once. Her eyes blaze in fire, her heart with desire
this beast from the farlands
It sheds in a cloud of sparkling fire, it rushes away in a wave. With a ripple and a sigh, she stands higher than high, an equal
to the King
of the Dragons.
in her tiger’d shape
with claws extended and threatening
she stares at the Dragon King
where his teeth
form a smile
and his wings form a gale
as they beat once
“GO HOME, WYRM,” her voice lashes out, terrible to hear, terrible to behold.
“GOLD SKINNED BEAST, COME AND FIGHT FOR YOUR FEAST!”
The Dragon King replies as his laughter dies, caught in a throat filled now
With a leap and a snarl
that hurls earth like blood
into the air
to cloud it so thickly
the beast from the farlands
meets the king of serpentkind
in a blur
and of claw.
“Blood and b-brimstone!” the wizard stammers out, staggering back from the force
of their clash. “What madness
One maiden, for this
is the world to end?”
Claws rend scales.
Teeth rend skin. Fire washes over and glows through
as blood like molten
bronze flows down
over gold and blueish
skin and scales.
Titans push and twist and writhe– the beast’s lashing tail draws furrows in the ground, the dragon’s sharp claws carve tracks.
with every tremendous
and fire within
and spatter the torn
and rent earth.
as scales wrenched apart
make noises like dying
the nymph stands rapt
her heart in her throat
both of them clash
to see the beast-turned-girl-turned-beast
and stagger and twist
with the king of wyrms
no clear victor arises from the mess
of scales and ragged
strips of gold flesh
no clear winning stumbles away
on that fateful day
that red day
that raw and red and bloody day
with guile, the dragon king rises
laughing all the while
from a throat that seems to be patched
of naught but scale
that runs thick and green
down his sides.
“VICTORY!” he snarls, then chokes again
and again, coughing blood to the ground
to soak the already
He rears back his head, so soaked in his own
and draws in a ragged, shuddering breath. His intent is plain– to incinerate the remains
of the village his thrashing
like blood and nightmares
bursts forth from the dragon king’s
throat like lightning
like blood red lightning
that patters the ground
in a flood or a torrent
Over the lord of the wyrms and the drakes
over the lord of the sleeping and wake
over the king of the dragons
over those who watch him
over the beast, who slams him down
the great dragon’s body
dragonflames still licking her form
the beast of the farlands stands firm in her place
staring down at the fallen wyrm.
Its shape still twists
the beast from the farlands turns to the nymph
and in her eyes
shines something dark
rather than shy
away from her fate
she rushes to meet it head on
the maid running up to the great beast’s
tucking herself close as can be
for a moment
heard stark in silence
is a growl that might be a purr
from the beast where it stands
then this too fades
and all that is left
is the sound
of the beast’s breathing
is the sound
of the maid’s breathing
and the beast-turned-girl, who stands on two legs instead of four, who wraps torn arms around the maiden- tight
who holds her close
two and one
on golden skin
burning once bright
and now softly
fades behind mischief-worn eyes
her heart slowing,
her breath coming short
holds the nymph as best she can
and held in those arms
or does she truly?
though breath stops
it is her voice that lifts
to wake the beast from tragedy
as the beautiful grieving creature of the nymph
between her ragged sobs of confused
raises her head
she sees that once more life beats
in the breast
of the girl
who was once
No grievous wounds are openly running
with blood like crimson tears.
no terrible flames crack skin like scales
open to the freezing airs
no, all of them close like magic
by the thoughts of a nymph
They embrace and more
in sight of the mage
who stands with both arms crossed
and mouth set firmly
“Shame upon both of you,” says he who sat back during all of the attack, says the wizard with eyes glowing red. “Shame and more shame! Truly the devils of sickness have caught you-
To touch another woman
as you might touch a man
to feel familiarity of that sort
with all but those
of a manly nature
is nothing more than foolishness
The nymph flicks a hand
and the wizard is covered
strand by silken
wrapped from head to toe
in vines and roots that grow
from the ground around his feet
before he utters but a word
he is but meat
with eyebrows arched
and face so white with rage
but just meat
without a spell
or a chance to win
his way free
he fumes there
while the beast girl and nymph
standing one with the other
and tamer than
the wild, shadow’d sky
(though not by much)
gaze into one another’s eyes
as like they just met
as like they had known one another
would know one another
of their beautiful
©2013 Sam Oliver (Eris)
So how long does a poem story hafta be before it’s considered an epic? Longer than this, right? I don’t care. Enjoy, guys. It took me simply FOREVER, but it’s done.