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This is the third part of my White Dragon short story adventure and the two mermen who are confronted with the issues of their relationship. If you haven’t caught up on the earlier parts, or want to refresh your mind before reading this one, here is Part II: https://fabianswriting.com/2022/11/20/an-autumn-special-the-white-dragon-part-2/

Jonathan walked through the ruins carefully. He did not want to step on any of the stones, large or small. Nothing was allowed to be changed, and the dirt on his boots could hide any marks of the white dragons or make something look different.

He turned around to see if Criston followed his example. He did. He walked right behind Jonathan. When Criston realised he was looking at him, Criston gave him an encouraging smile. In this moment, he appeared so sweet, as if Jonathan truly was the only man he cared about and thought about. As if Jonathan were the only man in the world. Considering the silence around them, the thick forest on all sides, and the ruins left and right, it even appeared as if they were the only two people in the world.

‘Do you see anything special, anything peculiar?’ Jonathan asked.

‘Nothing in particular. Should we maybe split up? Cover more ground?’

‘That’s a good idea. I go left, towards the old hall and the tower. You go right, towards the houses and unidentified ritual grounds.’

‘Which ones are those?’ Criston asked.

‘The stones in the circle over there. A similar formation as the one the strange walkers call Stonehenge.’ Joanathan explained.

‘Oh, I love stone formations like that. Right, see you in a bit. Shout if you see anything.’

Jonathan just nodded and walked on. Ruins began to rise on both sides. The architecture of this part of the lost kingdom was still recognisable to some extent. Jonathan walked through the part of the castle that must have been a throne room or some form of assembly hall.

He walked towards one of the walls that still rose a couple of metres above his head. The roof and ceiling must have caved in thousands of years ago. There was no trace of them anywhere. But on the wall, some carvings were still visible. Jonathan reached out his hand, and with one finger, he traced the lines of the ancient runes he had tried to decipher all his life. One time, he had even managed to translate a poem about the white dragons and mermaids. It was the story of their union and a spell that transformed their inner oceans into storms of fire and water, invincible elements, beautiful and terrifying. The poem spoke of colours transforming. The scales of the white dragons would shine like a rainbow flowing into streams of silver and grey, making their colours glow even brighter. Rivers of magic pulsated between dragons and mermaids when the spell was cast. It was magic no one has ever heard about, let alone been able to cast in the present.

When Jonathan had shared his translation with other knowledge keepers at the academy, he had earned himself respect. His translation was even published. At the party to celebrate his success Criston had kissed him for the first time. It was the happiest night of Jonathan’s life.

While lost in thought, Jonathan’s finger slipped off the carving and moved over the rough surface. He looked at the stone and saw that the carving had corroded at this point. There was nothing there but grey stone, unreadable and lost.

‘I found something!’ Criston called, and Jonathan swirled around.

He hurried back through the ruins of the throne room and went past broken pillars until he reached Criston. He was leaning in the grass, inspecting a pillar that was nearly overgrown with ivy.

Criston looked up, his dark blue eyes gleaming with excitement, and said: ‘I found scratch marks.’

Jonathan sighed. He had found scratch marks before. There were all sorts of animals in the woods. He had been able to link every scratch mark he had discovered over the years to a forest animal. None of them had ever been big enough to belong to dragons’ claws.

Disappointed, he sat down next to Criston, and took a closer look. His eyes widened. They were huge. Jonathan ripped some of the ivy off the pillar. It was not difficult, as most of the leaves had already turned blood red and had fallen off their thin branches.

‘How did you discover them?’ Joanathan asked.

‘I just took a closer look at some of the ruins. Just as you said when you once told me what to do when looking for traces on archaeological sites.’

Jonathan looked at Criston, his eyes beaming: ‘So, you do listen when I talk to you about stuff.’

‘I told you earlier that I love listening to your poems. And I listened to everything you said about the old man and the white dragons.’ Criston said with some hurt in his voice.

‘They are not my poems.’ Jonathan said, but had to laugh. ‘I will have to take a closer look at this at the academy.’

Jonathan got a glass phial out of his backpack, and with tweezers, he scratched some dirt off the marks.

‘When I cast a reaction spell detecting claws and scales on this stone, it should tell us what creature left these marks here.’ Jonathan said. ‘Well done. Thank you, Criston.’

Jonathan leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. His stubble tickled his lips, but Jonathan enjoyed it. There was hunger in Criston’s eyes. Jonathan knew that facial expression. He wanted more, but he wouldn’t give it to him now. He couldn’t. They still had not resolved their fight. And he wanted to focus on the mission. That’s why he was here.

Jonathan stood up and continued his search for marks or anything unusual. Criston followed him quietly. However, they did not find any other traces. Jonathan believed this to be a good sign, though. Whatever creature had left the scratch marks on the pillar had to be airborne. If it had walked through the ruins, it would have left more marks or other signs. This meant it had probably landed on the pillar and took off again and had flown somewhere else. Maybe it was a white dragon. Even if it wasn’t, it would be interesting to find out what creature this was. All of the animals in the area were well-known. None of them could leave scratch marks as large as these ones. It had to be an unknown species or a creature that had travelled very far to this remote place. Whatever the scratch marks turned out to be, they were already a great discovery in themselves.

‘It’s getting dark. Shall we set up the tent?’ Criston asked and yawned.

Jonathan looked up. The sky was inky blue. Some of the ruins were already cloaked in shadow. The forest behind them was already dark and silent. It was getting colder too.

‘I set up the tent. You make a fire. You are better with fire magic.’ Jonathan said.

A few minutes later, they sat next to each other on their empty backpacks, eating strange walker food. Jonathan never brought mermaid food on missions like this. It would be too suspicious if they encountered strange walkers by chance. He liked fruits like bananas and apples. Crisps were also nice. But he was particularly fond of the sandwiches made by strange walkers. The ones with the very soft, and white bread were perfect to bring on missions like this. Criston’s fire danced in front of them. The flames flickered golden and ruby, just like Jonathan’s fin scales when he was underwater in the mermaids’ blue spaces. Light cast shadows on the broken walls and pillars, reforming them, making them appear larger than during daylight. They appeared to be touched by gold, as if a memory of the lost kingdom had surfaced, breaking through the moss and ivy, and reshaping a world from a thousand years ago.

‘At night-time, the ruins don’t look like ruins.’ Jonathan whispered. ‘It feels like this place was abandoned just a few days ago. That the mermaids, strange walkers and dragons who lived here would come back any day.’

‘Maybe they will.’ Criston said with a smile.

His eyes gleamed like sapphires in the fire’s light. Jonathan looked at him and wanted to kiss him. But he decided not to. He waited for Criston to make the next step.

‘I wanted to apologise for my behaviour.’ Criston said.

Jonathan looked at him expectantly.

‘First, when I came here, when Sereyha told me to go, I wanted to explain myself. But now I think it’s best if I start with an apology. I am sorry.’

‘Thank you.’ Jonathan said, ‘What exactly happened with Andreas? I saw him touching your hand, as if he wanted something from you. And you didn’t pull away. You let him. I thought- I’ Jonathan began to stutter. He did not want to say out loud what he thought might be happening between Criston and Andreas. Even the thought of it conjured pain inside his heart that was capable of breaking it.

‘That’s exactly what I want to apologise for. I should have pulled away. But in that moment. I don’t know what happened. He seemed so nice. And we were only talking. I promise you that. I swear on my inner ocean. But I haven’t seen you in two weeks. You were always in the library, preparing for your mission. I missed your touch, so I guess that’s why I let Andreas touch my hand. Be flirtatious.’

‘You are always flirtatious.’ Jonathan said reproachfully.

‘You always knew that. But you also know that I would never cheat on you.’

‘Do I know that?’ Jonathan looked deeply into Criston’s eyes.

Grey and midnight blue. Sparkling crystals and gleaming sapphires in the fire’s light.

‘Yes, you know that. You know I love you. Sometimes I have the feeling, though, that you love your work, your ambition more than you love me. Don’t get me wrong, I admire it. I wish I could be as obsessed with something as you are. But sometimes, and it was like that over the last couple of weeks, I think all you wanted was to find out what happened to the white dragons. And nothing else.’

Jonathan thought about Criston’s words before he answered. He could see pain in Criston’s eyes. It had taken him courage to say this.

‘So, you didn’t pull back your hand because you missed my touch.’ Jonathan said.

Criston nodded.

‘Did you do it for attention?’

‘Perhaps, I don’t know. I did not do it to hurt you. I never want to hurt you. I want to be close to you.’

‘Maybe sometimes we hurt people when we are very close to them. Maybe that’s a part of love.’ Jonathan said.

‘Spoken like a wise mermaid.’ Criston smiled, almost grinned, hoping for Jonathan to smile too.

And he did. He could not resist: ‘I am a wise mermaid. Don’t forget, I can recite all sorts of poems.’

‘I could never forget.’

‘I have to be closer to you, I guess. I cannot be obsessed with white dragons and the lost kingdom all the time.’

‘You can be obsessed. Just include me in your work. We are a good team. Today’s discovery has proven that. And I’ll make an effort to be less flirtatious.’

‘You don’t have to do that. I trust you. Just don’t be flirtatious with Andreas again. I don’t like him. He always mocked me about my work when we were younger. I think I was angrier about that than about anything else. It all came back to my mind when I saw you with him.’

‘If he ever mocks your work again, I could punch him.’

Jonathan smiled first this time, and Criston began to laugh.

‘We could keep that as an option.’ Jonathan said and leaned in to kiss his boyfriend.

It was the sweetest kiss. It was as hot as the fire in front of them. It was as deep as their ocean homes. It felt as exciting as the prospect of discovering a white dragon. The kiss was filled with magic like the poems of this ancient place, that were carved in the fading stone in a language as difficult to decipher as the language of love. But Jonathan and Criston were speaking it now. They understood every silent word they spoke to each other. Jonathan buried his hands in Criston’s dark curls. Criston wrapped his strong arms around Jonathan and pulled him close. Jonathan let him. He slid into his lap without effort, as if he were always meant to be there. He could feel how much Criston wanted him in this moment. He felt how hard he was getting while he kept kissing him.

Jonathan moved his hands down to his chest and felt Criston’s heart beating fast, pumping his blood down between his legs. He wanted him. He wanted all of him. Criston drew him away, still holding on to him but now protectively rather than passionately. He looked at him, alerted.

‘Did you hear that?’ Criston asked and looked into the blackness of the forest.

‘No, I was a little bit distracted. I guess that’s your warrior education coming through.’

Jonathan expected Criston to smile, but he kept staring into the forest.

‘Something is there.’ His boyfriend whispered. ‘Something or someone is hiding in the woods.’

They both stood up. Jonathan focused. The eyes of Aquorsian mermaids could see better than anyone else’s.

‘Do you see anything?’ Criston breathed.

‘Nothing.’

‘Maybe it was just the wind.’ Criston said, taking Jonathan’s hand.

He clasped on tight, his eyes widening: ‘No, it wasn’t.’

Jonathan saw it. There was a flash of white on the edge of the forest. It had moved like an animal, agile and fast. For less than a second, it was within the reach of the fire’s light. Jonathan had seen it though. It was there. It shone white. It stood in contrast to the forest and the ruins. Jonathan did not dare to think about it or even say it out loud. But every cell in his body was triggered. He looked over to the pillar where Criston had found the scratch marks earlier. Could it be a white dragon?

One comment on “An Autumn Special Part III: Crystals and Sapphires

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