This poem belongs to the series A Conflagration of Dragons. It is the second poem dealing with the fall of the capitals of the six races, focusing primarily on the Shu but also their Eofor and Hachi allies. It is written in the forest path form, which uses forked parallels inspired by ancient Egyptian poetry. The verses are tercets with a parallel structure (not rhyme) of ABB, which means the first line sets the topic of the verse and the next two lines make parallel elaborations on that topic.
The Chant of the Return of Sebak
Jehuti the City of Trees I praise:
trees rooted in the rich depth of the earth,
trees lifted in the wide height of the sky.
All around the City of Trees lay the food forests of the Shu,
spread out like the hems of embroidered robes,
fanned out like the channels of a river delta.
In the food forests there grew all the delights of the table:
goats and chickens, moose and partridges,
sorrel and pears, morels and hazelnuts.
Beautiful was the Jewel of the Forest, the capital Jehuti:
the place where the Eofor brought their metalwork,
the place where the Hachi brought their medicines.
Atemu the consul of the Shu I praise:
consul of the ages, wise in his years
consul of the people, popular in his authority.
Glad was the heart of the elder Atemu,
sweetened by the honey of the sun on his city,
brightened by the song of the birds in its branches.
Merry too was the heart of Atemu, rival of the autocrat Puru,
for the city of Shaunaka was scattered in ruins
for the back of the Madhusudana was broken by a dragon.
Atemu laughed as he rode his greatdeer home,
for now the Shu could more easily protect nature
for now the fickle Madhusudana were laid low.
The alliance of the peoples of the Earth I praise:
strong ties of trade in goods and services,
strong ties of fellowship among the grounded folk.
We are the Shu, the people of Earth and Air:
in us is the fortitude of the forest floor
in us is the clarity of the woodland wind.
Here are the Eofor, the people of Earth and Fire:
in them is the security of the deepest stone
in them is the spark of the mountain's heart.
There are the Hachi, the people of Earth and Water:
in them is the comfort of the sheltered den
in them is the bounty of the nurtured field.
The business of the capital Jehuti I praise:
its economy gleaming in gold and silver like sunbeams
its economy shining in cobalt and chrysocolla like blue pools.
To the markets of Jehuti came Ejetheo,
elder knight of the sturdy mountain folk
elder trader of the busy metal smiths.
To the healing halls of Jehuti came Fujitsubo,
gifted physician of the kind marsh folk
gifted mediator of the wise clan mothers.
These were the kind of people whom Atemu knew:
Ejetheo the protector, strong and fierce
Fujitsubo the healer, gentle and reliable.
The foolishness of Atemu I mourn:
he mocked, and rejoiced in his enemy's grief
he mocked, and thought not of his people's risk.
Atemu rode into the city of Jehuti
and met with his peers and advisors and allies
and met his needs at table and bath and bedroom.
These were the things that Atemu did not consider:
that where there was one dragon, there might be more
that what happened to one city, might strike another.
Atemu was caught altogether off his guard
when the attack came to the Jewel of the Forest
when the attack fell on the City of Trees.
The coming of the dragon I mourn:
his body like a tree, deep green and powerful
his mind like a storm, vast and tumultuous.
He breathed upon the streets and boughs of Jehuti,
now in sheets of chaotic green and yellow flame
now in clouds of corrosive yellow-green gas.
He devoured the people as they tried to escape,
smoking them out of their hiding places
chasing them down the paths as they fled.
In the old songs sung by the senior bards
was found an explanation of the great drake's desire,
was found a description of his likeness and his name.
The return of Sebak the Green I mourn:
he who hungers for the flesh of beasts and people
he who hungers for copper and cobalt.
From the sky he swooped down upon them,
crushing the people beneath his belly
swallowing the folk down his great gullet.
Out of the legends he emerged, all unexpected,
crunching the beautiful jewelry between his teeth
lapping at the rich ores with his slim tongue.
Into the heart of the once-great city he went,
crouching like a green flame beneath tree-sized logs
glinting like a hidden gem under the dusty rubble.
The death of the elder knight Ejetheo I mourn:
who rushed heedless of age into his last battle
who rushed heedless of risk between danger and babes.
With his worthy war-wrench he went into the fray
smiting the startled dragon on the snout to turn him aside
striking the lock from the door to reach the nursery.
Here is the last deed of Ejetheo the hero:
flinging children from their beds on the balcony
floating them down to the arms of their frightened parents.
Thus it was that the hideous drake caught up to him
and wrapped him in sheets of fierce green flame
and wreathed him in terrible heat until he died.
The death of the gifted physician Fujitsubo I mourn:
who would not leave her post in the healing hall
who would not leave her patients to the dragon's mercy.
With her heart in her throat she worked as fast as she could,
stabilizing those who could be moved and sending them away
comforting those who could not be moved and easing their fear.
Here is the last deed of Fujitsubo the hero:
she threw floor cleaner into the face of the drake
she threw a scalpel into the pupil of his right eye.
Thus it was that we learned Sebak was not invulnerable, but
none could stop him from smoking Fujitsubo to death
none could stop him from slaying the last of her patients.
The fall of the capital of the Shu I mourn:
Jehuti the beautiful, whose leaves touched the sky
Jehuti the fruitful, whose roots embraced the earth.
Felled were the heights and the homes of the city,
the great trees laid low and smouldering
the sweet streets choked with reeking fumes.
Ravaged were the food forests around Jehuti,
the orchards once heavy with pomes and berries
the meadows once leafy with shoots and pods.
The people of the fallen city wept as they fled
to their allies in the mountains or the marshes
to their enemies or those unknown in lands beyond.
The mountain city of Hildeburh I praise:
capital of the Eofor, people of Earth and Fire
capital of our allies, loyal in time of need.
The Shu appealed to the Eofor in hope of refuge,
sending word to the mountain stronghold
fleeing uphill toward the safety of the peaks.
The Eofor opened their arms to the Shu
and let some of the refugees into the city of stone
and let them make their homes beneath the slopes.
Woe, that the warriors of the Eofor could not drive out the dragon!
for they sent some to the ruins of Jehuti;
for they tried, and were slain for their trouble.
The wetland city of Kamo I praise:
capital of the Hachi, people of Earth and Water
capital of our allies, sympathetic to our loss.
The Shu appealed to the Hachi in hope of aid,
sending word down every rill and river if able
fleeing downhill if desperate enough to seek even swamps.
The Hachi opened their hearts to the Shu
and sent what physicians they could spare
and sent what supplies they could pack with them.
Woe, that the healers of the Hachi could not save everyone!
for the drake's flame had sometimes burned too wide
for the drake's toxins had sometimes sunk too deep.
The messengers of five out of six peoples I praise:
those of the Shu, the Eofor, the Hachi
those of the Imran and even the Beneberak.
What remained of the Madhusudana mocked us
as Atemu had mocked Puru, when Janardana had come.
as Atemu had perhaps deserved, though Sebak had slain him.
It was no surprise that our allies aided us in this
though the mountains and the marshes yield few messengers
though the Eofor and the Hachi are not the swiftest of people.
It was more of a surprise that others lent their aid:
the Imran bard Zabur, and even one of our enemies,
the Beneberak alchemist Ladah who sealed scrolls at no cost.
The patience of the people of the woods I praise:
though the Shu are burned, we shall sprout anew
though the Shu are smothered, we shall yet breathe free.
Perhaps a dragon is like a forest fire,
quick to come and destroy all that lies in his path
quick to go and leave the world to recover behind him.
Perhaps a dragon is to be admired like any other elder,
for surely Sebak is older than anyone living, even a Hachi
for surely Sebak has gathered ancient wisdom under his wings.
Of myself I shall say the least and the last
for I am the youngest and juniormost bard of the Shu
Astennu, who earned her seat on the day her city fell.