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Talking To A Dragon’s Head

Rest.  

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Shall we rest?

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I retire this weapon, if it still resembles such, if it ever did, for the first time since our disagreement began.

My hands are calluses. 

New have grown where the old have broken.

I wear a battered mask.

And you?  

You look as if you would most certainly benefit from some stillness.

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You broken thing.

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What discomfort you must feel!

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Lay your great toothy chin beside me and relieve the strain of supporting those massive horns. 

 

There.

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Be at ease.    

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Let us rest.

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Do you dream?

I dream.

Dreams are journeys through strange doors.

They are curious.  

I yearn for some to stay, and flee from some like a fox from wolf breath.

Roots and knots along the paths I have walked. 

Things that I hold close and things that I fear and things that I do not yet know that I fear.

My mind and my heart un-chambered.

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And you.

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I see you.

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We do not dance in my dreams… 

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We do not dance…

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Awake?  Are you awake?

I must tell you where I have been.

A wondrous place.

It is sure to lift your spirits.

A shore.

A motley shore.

A motley shore neither craggy nor jagged, but soft and deep.

As far as my eyes stretch forth, small rounded stones are gently swallowed but then expelled proving they are steady, as a silvery serpent retreats to its nest in which its mother awaits.

I have heard tales of great serpents.

None are pleasant.

This one is different, this one of my dreams.

As my bones become stones and stones my bones, a cloven tongue licks at my flesh.

Again and again it does this.

I do not mind, and even desire the next.

I must not taste very good, like the stones.

I am most likely to big a meal for the young beast, as well.

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Do you know what I like best about this place?

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From where I lay, I can hear the sounds of my village.

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You remember my village, yes?

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There is a season.

Harvest.

My favorite days.

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They are your favorite as well.  

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All of us join in one purpose.

If we do not have bread when Hiber comes, we will be nothing but sickness.

Days are for preparations, but we welcome the days.

Those that have a bit of might are usually tasked with stocking casks of our most satisfying fermented spirit.

Our staves are of local wood.

It is unfinished until it mingles with the juices so generously relinquished by the orchard trees that no longer have any need for the sun.

Then and only then.

I would thirst an eternity for one fill of my hands.

It is not uncommon to see some of the aged slumped in some quiet, breezy secret with very little done.  

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When I think of Harvest, I am in a most magnificent light.

The juvenile glare of morning exhausts itself, brilliant but impatient.

The sun soon delivers a seasoned and sustained strength.

The village is now bathed in warm amber.  

All things seem graced and gentle.  

Even the thatched roofs change, the strands offering this light to the entire village.  

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Guide-lights to bring you home.   

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With Harvest come Harvest gnats, which seem to enjoy slumbering within the thatch, beneath which we do the same. 

Unremarkable, yes, but their lack of glory hides an ability most remarkable.  

Their flight seems devoid of any direction or purpose, and that may be so.

But each of the slight specks appears alight!

Their hurried masses lance amber trails before us, not one more stout than a stave splinter.

This is no pest that creates such a thing.

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Somewhere, a leviathan smith is shaping a leviathan piece of copper-gold, its wind-borne flakes reminding all what it is to be alive.

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Harvest can bring storm clouds, but it is rare.

Much of the work must cease, but something quite incredible is delivered to us.

The trees have been abandoning their green robes in preparation for cloaks of white.

Shreds of the most wonderful description are now bedded upon every path.   

Attempting to journey to some other place without actually doing so, I walk.

Such a thing beneath my feet!

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Dried fruit skins and flower petals soaked in the deepest spirit embrace in a light dance and invite my steps to join.  

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O!  What gifts from an unselfish sun!  

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One Harvest past was no different, in the beginning.

I am able to again walk the orchard as I did.

Really more of a purposeless wander, for that which has not yet been picked is ripe and irresistible.

It tends to render one content.

First glance, I thought a lean bit of storm cloud separated from its host.

Nimble and fast moving, this lean bit.

I knew I had never seen the likes of this.

Once I realized you drew breath the same as I, my ears caught that low groan. 

The wind groans from the punishment you inflict with those tatter-skins that somehow keep you aloft. 

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My ears heard another thing.            

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The whispers of spectres on the leaves.

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By the way, what have you done with your wings?

Misplaced them?

You forgetful thing.

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As I stood transfixed, curiosity tinctured with fear, your gaunt form was upon me.

You did not smell that much different then.

How do you stay warm with such flesh?

It is stretched over your enormous cage and a deprived thing.

When rain comes, scavenger beasts and maggot hordes open it to the soft beneath.

As you dry, the gnaw marks crust, cursing you forever.

Were you good and intact in your youth?

Are you youth? 

Well, it was not easy to get through, I can tell you that.

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Now.

 

Our first moment.

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With a downward, tilted turn of your bladed head, its nests of horrid protrusions doing the same, you greeted me.

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Your eyes.

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Rotted yellow.

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Raven-black gems change from shard to stone and back again.

  

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I saw great gemstones that day.

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You did not know what to think of us.

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You think.

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I know you do.

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You were only seen from afar, coasting leisurely against the horizon.

You might as well have been a living tale from a mischievous young one or the result of some conjuring.  

This was all we would see of you, your barbed tail diminishing into a distant hint.

You were on all tongues certainly through middle Harvest.

We did not know what or where, if or if not. 

An unknown traveler, were you just passing through or intent on a longer stay? 

You arrived and found refuge in our skies, a fellow to the very clouds from which I saw you drop.

Could we share this land?

“Leave it be as it leaves us,” I would hear preached under breath. 

Why should there be any bother from you, and why should you expect any from us?

All beasts may drink from our streams and pools. 

Your monotonous patterns so unflinching, you became as bushels and casks are to most of the village.

The sun and the moon clashed horns as always, each retreating in turn.  

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I, however, squinted to define you before every sun, and studied your blackened curiosities before every moon.  

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With our needs packed and shelved, and a quiet, pungent burn on the air an invitation to every hearth, Hiber came as it always did.

A time for enjoying the gifts from the orchard and our fermented spirit, yes, but also rest and reflection.

The village does indeed slow, but there is always a need to brave the sting away from the warmth.

I do not think once did I not glance at the horizon.

It seemed you, too, preferred the shelter of wherever you nested to the less comfortable qualities of Hiber.

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Do you reflect as well?

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Perhaps a great deal.

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Thaw brings a village of mud.

It is quick, for the sun emerges anew and delivers vigor and insight and preparedness to all.   

If I did not know otherwise, I would tell you that some of us look as if we are actually molting, except these beetles smell of fermented fruit.

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It was Thrive when new word of you slinked from mouth to ear and then again.

A witted and thoughtful young one claimed she saw you dancing in the rays of the sun.

Even I doubted this strangeness for you were as elusive in Thaw as you were in Hiber.

The claims of young ones are indeed not all fantastic.

It seems that you needed a closer look, and a most impressive thing you do.

Raptors halt themselves in flight to then descend and ensnare their prey.

They do the same when approaching their perch.

By thrusting your tail toward your neck and head are pulled upright.

With wings pulsing more quickly in a movement that keeps them close, you stay.

You share the air with raptors. 

Perhaps you learned this from them.

Were you a curious but apprehensive beast like most that lived among us?

Was this an introduction, a speechless greeting because we do not share language?

Most thought this one of your habits we had not yet seen.

A delight for the eyes, you are not, but you were becoming more common.

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The disaster of Thrive.  

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Leave it be.

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You are a cunning thing!

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Did you wish to soar low over our orchards to gently skewer something sweet?

Quietly refresh yourself streamside and drink the silver-clear that flows there?

Or perhaps soothe your flight-weary frame nestled in the nurturing breezes of our hills?

  

Yes? 

No?

I am asking you!

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You were different.

Up with morning, as was I.

Hastily flying back and forth as if frustrated by indecision.

Your usual ease now a disoriented path.

From afar faintly, I could hear your wings, frantic in this new tension.

Had you fallen ill?

That is what the young ones thought.

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They were concerned for you.

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What concern you did return. 

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You had climbed to a height obscured by clouds.

I thought a retreat or convalescence until your mood improved.

I had gone some distance, where the manageable producers of the orchard change to the rough giants of the forest, their fallen carcasses essential for the coming Hiber.   

I stripped limbs and branches and bundled what I could, but had to relinquish my efforts to the possessive temptations of rest.  

I talk to these giants.

I do.

I blindly weave tales and they creak and listen without wavering. 

They have seen more from those heights, but enjoy my tales. 

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I am no longer blind.

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You have stolen my tales.

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A thing for me, I think

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O!  Cursed life!

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Why your teeth did not mercifully rid you of this long ago, I do not know!

This turns about in the bottom of your head, writhing in a tepid slick?

Perhaps a swollen, regurgitated half serpent, one by which a greater, ravenous beast has not yet been satiated! 

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Most foul.

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I dreamed, but any forest gregariousness had gone.  

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A wolf mother nurses six.

They were of neither wolf nor my kind.

All runts and shriveled for no matter their efforts, no milk came. 

Their thin-clawed appendages kneaded her white-wrinkled belly. 

I wanted to bring them milk, but there was not any there.

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I am at the back of an old cooper.

He is barely able to steady his plane.  

Then I see his work.

He is planing the skin from his very own thighs.  

I begged him to stop, but no speech came.  

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I am sitting in the forest.  

My axe is too heavy for me to lift. 

I have chopped away my legs.  

Chipped bones extend from stumps, and are much longer than they should be.  

I try to rise, but my bones only dig into the ground.      

         

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The doors closed.

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I lay with my arm cramped beneath me.

My bundles were where I left them.

My legs ended with feet.   

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The sun had changed.

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The giants were quiet.

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There was a burn on the air. 

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The unmistakable border of the orchard should be there, the direction in which my axe lay.

If I turned to my back would I see six dry mouths snickering because I am the fool?  

What was once a clean line of small dutiful trees was now a bitter churn of grey-blacks and yellow-browns.

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Again, I heard spectres.

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This was no whisper.

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They screamed.

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I will follow my axe head and trust that it knows the way.

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The orchard raked at me in my haste, disgusted with my offense.

Breath had been devoured, so what I pulled in was filthy and acrid.

My sight bled as quickly as it came, seared and bastard.   

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I kept trying to evade my thoughts.

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How does one race to the door of a devil, eager to see what hangs from the hooks inside?

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I was spat out, our poor trees hacking as much as I.

My ribs gripping in complaint, I surrendered to my knees.

A boiling torrent forced itself from my head, releasing out what seemed like all I had. 

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It was as if I was gagging on embers that were singeing a path back up.

My eyes washed away shards that left nicks behind the streams.

The more I strained, the more vengeful both.

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Any forward thought seemed to have been stolen from me.

Were I to be brushed by even a wobbly, uncertain newborn breeze, I would keel to one side and plant myself.

There I would stay, my roots grey-black and yellow-brown.  

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Draught is the taker, and I am like the succulent thing that craves the rains of Thrive.

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As if I had a watcher, a phantom lifted my head from beneath my chin.

No newborn, this one with some age and strength came with mercy.

It straightened me upright, not once allowing me to slump.

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My bearings crept back as clear as they could, and a most needed path was before me.

I regained my feet, my axe momentarily excepting another purpose.

It would not be its last.

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But a curious curer this phantom, for it brought upon it another thing.

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The sounds of my village.

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“Leave it be as it leaves us.” 

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You are some thing to keep that inside you. 

It is like none that I have seen.

Devoid of hearth-spirit.

It can not be born of the same.

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Is it from some alchemy in your depths?

How are you not harmed?

Is it all you are, and this, the spigot?

Is that why you did not eat?

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A joyless life, I would claim, except I know different.

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There was such a wind.

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It had a fierce new quality.

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You kept me.

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Your servant.

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I tried.

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I have never begged more for the end of a torturous dream.

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I am pinned and the points most real.

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You choked the sun.

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The screams of the dying are challenged only by the screams of those who are about to.

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Some are silenced at once, as if their very breath is seared away.

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Their empty cages surrender to the ground. 

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Some seek shelter, but it will serve as only the most mortal kind.

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Confines only slowing a blistering death.   

 

Some flee to nowhere, only to fall. 

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Their steaming flesh unfurling.

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I know them. 

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Not the others.

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I do not know one for I do not see eyes.

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But below these haunts, the bloody and ash-caked clench of the charred dead. 

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Some in curious form, as if the sun and the moon locked horns.

 

Almost with thought, was it not for the weeping splits.

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Some stripped and crooked hands somehow still hold tools.

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Perhaps they tried.

 

Some cover young ones.

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There is little difference between them.

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The burnt reek of it all.

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And you.

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From my back.

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Two limp prizes, one in your toothy snare, one in your clutch.

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By whipping the claw at your wingtip, as if brushing away flies, you separate one into halves.

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The other, you just ruin, drooling the ghastliness onto the scorch below.

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You lack decision.

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You hurl yourself into some of your own destruction, as if betrayed by your own parts.

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Do you have wounds?

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Could it be?

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No.

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Joy.

 

Bloated, inebriated joy.

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Drenched in death.

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Then, a downward tilted turn to gloat and to see who is left.

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Gemstones.

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Raven-black.

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You forgetful thing.

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You have left a most unspeakable trail behind you.

It will stain this land.

We will accept a shallow stain.

We will have one thing.

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We will have one thing!

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I will drag you through the breathless hills!

I will drag you through the mourning giants! 

I will drag you through the rotting orchard!

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Let yourself leak out!

Let your scales slough off!

Let your bits fall away to insignificance! 

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I will drag you until only scraping skull remains! 

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You are coming with me!

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Your disgraced horns will carve cavernous twin valleys from which such celebration will sound for ages to come!

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The sun!

The moon!

Plentiful yields!

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And your bones!

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It is with these bones that we will thunder on great victorious drums!

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You will not take this from us!

You will not take this from us!

You will not take this from us!

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It seems that I have angered my wounds.  

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Listen.

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I can hear them.

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I can hear them.

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I can hear them…

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I can…

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I…