Jonathan was far away from the ocean. This was nothing unusual. However, considering he was a merman, it was a situation he had never found himself in before. He had read about it all, though. He had studied for three years at the Strange Walker Academy, had learned how to blend in, what clothes to wear, had acquired customs, revised all sorts of special vocabulary, and had read books about strange walker history, geography and culture that might be useful when walking among the world of strange walkers.
Most mermaids went to Strange Walker Academy for special assignments in the kingdoms. Sabotage the political movements of the strange walkers that might harm the underwater world or try to distract them from other magical occurrences. It was dangerous, and mermaids rarely enjoyed doing it. Most mermaids chose to go to Strange Walker Academy because of duty. Jonathan had decided to go because he had wanted to.
He sighed and breathed in the cold autumn air. After all these years studying on land, it still felt strange to breathe air through his nose and not through his gills. He zipped up his jacket and continued his journey through the moors. It was colder than he had expected. On land his mermaid abilities were weakened, and while under the sea, he would have no problems with the temperatures, here on this strange walkers‘ island known as England, the weather bothered him more than he expected.
It was uncomfortable, to say the least. There were different clothes for every change of the weather, and every season of the year. He had read about it all in books, of course, but here, in real life, it was something entirely different. The clothes felt like a second skin. They protected him from the autumn wind, but it felt unnatural. He could not believe that strange walkers wore them all the time. It had to be so time-consuming to always get dressed and think about what to wear. It was ridiculous.
While walking, Jonathan tried to admire the scenery. The trees, the corals of land, were losing their leaves. They had turned from green into the most incredible colours. Yellow, like sand glittering in shallow waters, orange like the starfish Jonathan was friends with at home, and red like the beautiful foam corals that grew larger in some places of the ocean than any tree on land. A leaf glided to the muddy ground and landed in front of Jonathan’s boots.
Every time this happened, Jonathan looked at the leaf with sadness. He understood it was a natural process. It was the end of photosynthesis for this year, which was an occurrence in northern parts of the world. It was the same with everything else, though. Reading about it was not the same as experiencing it. All the leaves were dying. They would return in spring, but Jonathan had always been back at sea during springtime. He had never seen the blossoming of spring. That’s why the world of the strange walkers appeared to him like a world of decay. The colours of autumn were pretty, but they were only there for a time until coldness grasped the world and everything turned white.
There was nothing he could do about it, though. He had to be here in the autumn. His studies, the reason why he had done all of this, was because of one special occurrence in this place: The appearance of the white dragon.
Jonathan remembered it as if it was yesterday. He first read about the legend of the white dragon in a kelp book when he was only five years old. Since then, it has been his favourite story. The more he had read about dragons, the more fascinated he had become by these absolutely gorgeous creatures who lived in remote places of the world, most of them gone extinct.
The same could be said of the white dragon, or to be precise the species of the white dragon. They used to inhabit the entire northern hemisphere and glided through the night sky, their wings catching the light of the stars and the moon, acquiring the magical wisdom of these faraway celestial lights, in time becoming the wisest of all dragons.
Jonathan was shocked when he learned about how strange walkers regarded dragons. They believed them to be vicious creatures that had to be battled and killed. And in the distant past, they had succeeded. Otherwise, most of them would not be extinct by now. It was also the destruction and pollution of the dragons’ natural habitats that had wiped out many more dragons over the last two hundred years.
Jonathan hated the strange walkers for that. Thinking about it made him feel frustrated and powerless. And the task he had set himself didn’t make this easier. He was just one merman, trying to find the last white dragons. If the stories were to be believed. The legend he had been obsessed with as a merchild were not only about white dragons but about an ancient kingdom in the North of England. This kingdom was a utopia for dragons, mermaids, and strange walkers. They lived in harmony and prosperity. The mermaids shared their knowledge of the ocean and water. They were great healers and scholars. The strange walkers shared their knowledge of the land and were great fighters and protected their ancient lands. At the core of the kingdom, however, was the wisdom of the white dragons that had united all of them. Their magic and the celestial fire they could breathe was the soul and heart of this long-lost kingdom.
It was a legend, a myth, Jonathan could never really let go. And later, when he didn’t know what to do with his life, he decided to find out if there was truth to the legend of the ancient kingdom and the white dragons. He had to know. Because when he thought about the world he lived in, about the mermaids trying to stop strange walkers from destroying the planet, about an endless secret battle that had destroyed so much of the natural world, the idea of the white dragons, the idea of a lost kingdom that could hold the wisdom to return the world to harmony, was a wave of hope inside Jonathan’s heart he did not want to see breaking.
A lot of mermaids were interested in his plan, but nearly everyone regarded it as a hopeless one. But since Jonathan was not a great fighter nor a great healer, the other mermaids had left him alone, had let him study all he needed to for his plan to take form. He wasn’t needed anywhere else. Whenever he told other mermaids about his dreams and hopes, they smiled at him and wished him good luck. But he always had the feeling that none of them really believed him.
‘On a cold and freezing day, when white mist flows above yellow hills and bleeding trees, the past and present meet, the kingdom of old shines like a pillar in the sun.’ Jonathan began to recite out loud as he began walking up a hill, ‘Echoes of the ancient world reach into the here and now. Melodies of mermaids. Strange walkers and children of the ocean taking each other by the hand. A sight not seen for ten thousand years. And above them fly the white ones. Their wings glitter like starlight. Their eyes shine like the moon, carrying wisdom in their fiery hearts. The white dragons of old. The white dragons of celestial light. The white dragons descend, bringing words of peace, so no one needs to fight.’
It was his favourite part of an old text about the white dragon myth. It was the essence of his quest. Everything he hoped to find out about. He had always wondered what the nature of the white dragons’ wisdom exactly was. What knowledge did they hold to be able to unite three such fundamentally different species as dragons, mermaids, and strange walkers?
Jonathan opened his mouth again, ready to recite another poem, to pass the time when he turned around. He had heard something. Something or someone had moved over there, by the blackberry bushes, not too far away from the path. Jonathan was not alone.
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