ONE: REFLECTIONS ON A FAR SHORE
I, Kaetzal, Claw of Drakhoun, walk this far shore, alone.
Baleful sun fires the horizon of the quiet sea; one moon,
Alone, silvers the jungle at my back. Starfarer no more.
Here will I go insane. The exile pod floats beside me,
Distortion waves shimmering off the gravity shifter. It can
Take me anywhere, but would shatter were I to challenge this
Sky. It cannot be reprogrammed. Disruptor, exoskeleton,
Metabolic batteries, resonator -- I've enough tools to name
Myself King -- of this forsaken dustspeck of a world.
A serpent glides through the slime at my feet, jeweled back
Sparkling in moonlight. I see myself, three thousand years
Hence: a belly crawler, naked and unthinking, a taster of
Mud. I finger my disruptor. Shall I Kill this serpent,
Punish it for mocking me? Shall I teach it who is King?
A shorebird circles the surf, hunting, silhouetted on the
Smooth blue moon. Should I Kill all? I could cleanse
This world, were I so inclined. But why should any be
Allowed to die before I do? The Elders locked within my
Code a new template -- eggs, sperm, rebirthing rhythm --
I am now a self-replicator, like a fungus.
This they called Mercy....
What shade the Drakhoun sky tonight? What pattern the five
Moons? What tale throbs through The Dreamsong, now that
Kaetzal, lone voice of discord, has been silenced? Angry, I
Shed the exoskeleton, drop it into the mud. Why wear
Another prison? Before two steps I collapse to my hands and
Knees, crawl in circles, humiliated, my punishment complete.
A crude chorus trips my resonator -- one could hardly call
These minds at all. I strain to peer into the jungle.
Tribes of mangy apes -- no, not so pure as apes -- another
Thing -- human. I reach for the disruptor, to reduce them
All to sand -- but no. Instead I show them a little trick
I've learned, a quirk of this oxygen-rich world.
I breathe fire.
Scurrying, they leave a ghost in my resonator -- a serpent
God, shedding skin, breathing fire. Laughing, I place my
Exoskeleton and disruptor in the pod, send them over the sea
To shatter, fire announcing a new legend, lord, and exile.
Earth's Sole Dragon, I set forth. My tiny universe beckons.
TWO: WETBORN IN WINTER
I ache for the Sun. I will not see the Spring.
Every century or so, I've learned, Winter smashes these
Mountains, and snow falls for weeks. This is such a storm.
The cave mouth has iced over. I'm so still and cold, the
Ice could be within my bones. I groan, and moist,
Warm breath creates a spiral aperture in the ice disc
Closing me in, a crystalline iris which shifts and swirls.
Through this I peer, hoping to glimpse a starry sky
Beyond this blizzard. Is it right to long for home,
After so many centuries? Is it good to ache for my bright,
Warm life, on The Homeworld, so many galaxies away?
There is too much time to think in winter.
And this winter is different: Another is here.
Time, heavy as miles of ice. Though I'm chilled, Another is
Warm, swaddled in my beating heart, shifting and wriggling
In my clean blood. When I was my mother, did I resent
Myself so? Excruciating destroyer, ignorant, selfish.
I writhe around my cave, bleating and bellowing. My cries
Shatter ice, hurl avalanches through chasms.
Do grannies in the village below soothe babies with whispers
Of Old Tseng Chen, whose cries echo around the moon?
There is no time to think. One has awakened.
I don't know that a claw is slicing through my chest
Until I look down and see it. Paralyzed, I watch
My body split, my blood pool on the cave floor.
A jeweled serpent, fifteen feet long, splashes free.
Its scales harden as it licks my blood from the floor.
Panting, I wish to scream, but hold my breath for fear
I'd burn the exquisite murderer. It finds my open chest,
Gnaws there, moves to my throat. I stare at the cave mouth,
Unfeeling, and fancy distant stars. Soon it eats
Through my eye. It gnaws through the socket, and for only a
Moment, the pain is fabulous. Then it is upon my brain.
Darkness, and sleep, until I awaken, eating this bloody gray
Bread. I look to the cave mouth and wonder: What are stars?
I return to this strange feast, this mountain of icy flesh.
I breath fire, slink between blackened bones like a cage
Of the past. Days and nights pass -- I know, I remember:
Someday the ice will break, and I will see the Spring.
THREE: THOUGHTS BEFORE THE SLAYER
Marvelous and tiny, yet another approaches. Wasn't it just
A decade ago when the last ventured here? Or was it a
Century? These things blur together. Regardless, another
Approaches, his heart throbbing, daunting my ancient ears,
Hand-hammered armor clanking and creaking, brittle iron
Sword held aloft, resonating in the wind.
Too weary to tell him of my legends, memories really,
Learned not at a granny's knee, but gnawed from the inside
Of my dead mother's skull when I was wet-born, as she had
Gnawed them from her mother's, and so on, seventy times on
This earth, beneath this sun.
He stops; kneels; a prayer to whisper, his pious words
Whipped away by the wind.
I slide along the rock ledge before my cave, wish for more
Sun -- how I've always loved this sun. Should I interrupt
His prayer to talk about this sun, or talk of cool blue suns
I remember? Or great red suns which fill strange skys, cast
Shadows on castles which were old when his race was young?
He continues to pray, this creature come to kill me. My
Teeth hurt. I cannot bear the thought of eating. Some days
I can't breath fire, and my own smoke chokes me. My heart
Hisses within my chest, and worst -- there are no eggs. I
Welcome him, this tiny knight, but also want to tell of my
Line, how one thousand, seven hundred, and sixty-three years
Ago my First arrived, sent his starship to the ocean floor.
How I've watched since then, seen these tiny unscaled ones
Stand up from the ape, construct cathedrals. How when first
I saw a war I could have scoured this Earth clean, set fire
To the sky. How when first I heard a lullaby cooed in a
Cold cave, I knew this race would prevail....
His prayers are done. What name his god? Or should I ask
His name -- Saint George, Glooscap, Sigurd? Or ask which of
A thousand names he calls me -- Nidhogg, Draconis, Hydra?
He arises, steps forward, sword drawn, fear and courage in
His eyes. I roll over in the warm sun, on this world grown
Too small for legends. He targets my breast, pale and
Penetrable, while I wonder what will be said, when his
Descendants meet my ancestors, out among the stars.