This poem came out of the August 6, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from ellenmillion. It belongs to the series A Conflagration of Dragons.
All verses have been posted. Linkers include: janetmiles, technoshaman, siege, rix_scaedu, tigerbright, siege, thnidu
These words I write down
so that they will be remembered:
The flight from Jehuti
was a horrible thing.
Entire families died together
before they could flee;
whole herds were burned up
in the dragon's sulfurous ire.
If it weren't for the burden squirrels,
we would never have made it out of the city alive.
The greatdeer could only go along the ground
but the burden squirrels took what we gave them
and ran with us from branch to branch,
fleeing through the forest with the fire close behind.
We spread the soft skin of our wings
to catch what wind there was
as we leaped from one tree to another,
and the burden squirrels scampered along
with packs full of food and tools and other essentials.
The greatdeer were easy prey for a dragon,
and Sebak snapped them up as easily as he did
with the people of the City of Trees --
but the burden squirrels jumped out of the way,
his tawny fire striking uselessly at trunk or air
while they shrieked insults at him from behind the boles.
When at last we could flee no farther
and collapsed into huddled clusters of refugees,
the burden squirrels came to us
as they always come, begging for handouts,
and we gave them candied nuts
in exchange for the packs they carried.
We rarely got our own things back,
for that was the way of the burden squirrels,
but we shared out what we could gather,
passing around clean clothes and bandages
and loaves of travel bread dense with dried fruit and honey.
The burden squirrels chittered at us,
their tails still bushy with distress,
and our own were no slimmer
even though we'd left the dragon behind.
We took off their packs and their harnesses,
curried their soft fur back to its proper fluff,
and left them to gather their own fodder as usual.
There were so many people burned
or choking from the dragon's fumes,
and we knew that some of the burden squirrels, too,
had fallen behind from their injuries,
their lives given up distracting the dragon,
what supplies they carried lost along with them.
It was still worse with the greatdeer,
few of whom survived, our favored mounts
largely gone the way of our great city.
We must be nomads now,
like the rangers who roam the woods
to tend the glen-gardens and the food forests,
who hunt the wild and the half-wild animals on the trails,
and only come to the city to trade
what they have for what they need.
Perhaps we will find refuge in the mountains,
for the Eofor and the Shu have long been allies;
it may be they will open their doors to us.
A city of stone is nothing like a city of wood
but surely it's better than no city at all,
nothing but the tent and the trail around us.
Even so, there is a long and bitter journey
ahead before we reach that sanctuary.
In the morning, the burden squirrels
will come back to us, eager for a treat
and a day's work that is so much play to them.
They will take on the packs and the harnesses,
carry what little remains of our supplies,
and bound away into the branches --
but they cannot take from us
the greatest weight of all,
for that lies within our hearts
and not even the words of a bard can lift it
for even I, Astennu the merrywit,
have only sorrow to share tonight.