Pocket full of Posies
The Watchers of the East and West were peaceful. The twin cities framed the narrow swath of land that marked the southern road to the east. They were a mere six leagues away from each other and did exactly what one would expect. They watched. Directly south of the Watchers was the sea. Calm and placid, much like the rest of the land even the sea itself didn't care much for change. North of the Watchers lay the southernmost rim of the Serpentine Wall. That crumbling thing that everyone who lived in either of the two Watchers did their very best to ignore. Of course, no one really remembered what they were supposed to be Watching for as nothing any more exciting than a caravan of merchants had come from the West in longer than anyone could remember so it was with quite a bit of alarm and not a little excitement when a solitary man rode into Westwatch as if he were being chased by the Demon King himself.
The man rode past the city's western facing gates, gates that had been flung open for so long that the hinges were coated in rust from disuse. His dun stallion galloped with labored breathe, chest heaving in effort and white slather pooling in the corners of the poor creatures' mouth. The man himself was hunched over his horse awkwardly clutching at his midsection. Dark, dried blood was crusted in his hair and on his face. The townspeople leaped out of his way then brushed their skirts and trousers of the dirt and went about their business of gossiping and making their way slowly to the city center where the man was surely headed.
The man's horse was kind enough to deposit him directly in front of the Mayor's manse right off of the town square. It was even more fortunate that the mayor's third son, Jackson, was outside sulking on the long, columned porch.
Jackson was a bright but sullen boy of sixteen who as the third son was often ignored by his father and barely tolerated by his two older brothers. His mother doted on his younger brother Paxton, a small and somewhat fragile boy of 10 but she tended to ignore the rest of her sons. After the initial shock of a bloodied and half dead man falling off his horse almost at Jackson's feet the boy immediately jumped up and ran the short distance to the unhorsed stranger.
Kneeling in front of man, Jackson spared a quick glance for his horse. He eyed the sweat-slicked sides and foaming mouth with a frown. He put his hands on the man's shoulders and gently turned him from the curled up position he adopted to his back. The man groaned in response and squeezed his eyes shut tightly. His grip on his midsection tightened and a fresh stream of red blood threaded through his fingers. Jackson forced himself to swallow bile as it rose in his throat.
"Sir, sir, are you alright?"
The man managed to open one eye and gave him a withering glare.
"Obviously not." Jackson muttered.
He looked around the slowly filling town square of all of the townspeople who were attempting to look nonchalant while straining past each other for a glance at the man bleeding all over the cobblestones.
"You!" he pointed to two men that had edged closer than the rest of the groups. "One of you go get a stable hand, bring water and a feedbag of oats. The other one please run and get my father." The two men looked at each other, "well don't just stand there looking daft, run!"
Jackson rolled his eyes as the two bystanders took off in separate directions. He looked back down at the man and moved to touch him but hesitated. His hands hovered inches above the stranger's for a few moments before he pulled them back and wiped his sweaty palms on the tops of his trousers. Jackson was quite surprised that the man hadn't died yet, or at least passed out. Then again, he hadn't actually looked at the wound yet but from the amount of dried blood and grime covering the man the wounds had to be bad and probably infected. Jackson wiped his hands on his pants again and settled back onto his heels.
The town square had all but filled up but the people gave him and his new charge a wide berth. The horse had started to calm down and had walked to the center of the town square and began drinking out of the fountain.
"Look, do you need me to do anything?" The man groaned and rolled back over onto his side. "I'm going to take that as a no then." The man whimpered. "Right, we'll just wait for my father then yes? I'm sure he'll bring a couple healers with him."
He drummed his fingers on a smooth and blood free cobble stone. He pivoted on his heels and half-turned toward the front door of his house. The chatter from the townspeople was getting louder. He spun back to face them and fixed them all with a glare.
"Well, if you aren't going to help then go on about your business! Stop gawking!"
He pushed up off the ground and stood and then stepped across the man so he was between the people and their view. He crossed his arms over his chest and raised an eyebrow. The townspeople didn't move and their chatter only increased. Jackson growled and took a step forward but the whispering was now accompanied with pointing.
"Jackson, what the hell?" Jackson turned quickly toward the annoyed voice of his eldest brother, Liam.
"What?" He went back to kneeling next to the man.
"This man is dying on our front lawn and you have done absolutely nothing to help him? What are you thinking?"
Liam deftly pushed aside the man's hands and ripped open his already torn shirt exposing a ragged wound across his abdomen. He dumped a pouch of supplies on to the ground and quickly extracted a small jar of some sort of salve and a wad of clean, white bandages. He smeared a liberal amount of the salve across the wound headless of the fresh blood still oozing out of the man's skin. Jackson had to stifle the urge to wrinkle his nose at the sharp stench emanating from the slave. Liam then pressed the bandages onto the wound.
"Make yourself useful and hold this here." When Jackson hesitated, Liam reached over and grabbed his wrist and forced Jackson's hands to the bandage. "Hold here, and press down hard."
Jackson's eyes followed Liam as he dashed across the square to the fountain, completely ignoring the horse, as he filled a bucket of water. He frowned and applied more pressure to the stranger's wound, he didn't even notice when the blood that seeped through the bandage got onto his fingers.
Liam returned quickly and pulled the man into his lap and coaxed him into drinking some water. Jackson kept his head down not wanting to meet his brother's eyes. Liam was twenty-five and had been groomed since birth to lead Westwatch. His other older brother, Gregory was twenty-four; only 11 months younger than Liam and the two were very close. After a few more minutes of listening to Liam trying to get the man to drink more water their father finally arrived accompanied by the two men Jackson had sent, a stable hand and two of the healers that resided in the Mayor's manse, a wide piece of canvas as long as a man stretched between two poles was carried between the two.
"Liam, help get this man onto the canvas and into the infirmary. Has he said anything to you?"
"No father, but Jackson was already here with him by the time I arrived."
Jackson swallowed hard as his father's hard gaze fell to him. Jackson stood up and backed away from the wounded man allowing Liam and the two healers to help him onto the stretched canvas. He wiped his now bloody hands on the front of his pants again this time leaving thick bloody streaks on them. He forced himself to meet his father's eyes. Out of all of his brothers, Jackson looked the most like his father. Moderately tall with unruly black hair and dark green eyes, the two of them shared a slim frame and Jackson's shoulders hinted the broadness that would one day rival his fathers. He shook his head no and kept his jaw clenched tightly shut.
His father nodded once and then turned around. Jackson imagined a cloak sweeping out behind him but it was late summer and too hot for such things. His father motioned to Liam who grabbed one end of the stretched canvas as a healer grabbed the other. The four of them marched straight into the manse without a backward glance.
Jackson looked around. The crowds of townspeople were starting to disperse and the stable hand had already attached the feed back to the horse's bridle and was leading the dun stallion in the direction of the stables behind the manse. Jackson was, once again, alone.
He looked down at his feet. The puddle of blood had pooled in the crevices between the cobblestones forming tiny rivers that criss-crossed in front of him. He held his hands out in front of him noticing for the first time the red staining them. He rubbed them against his paints with renewed vigor. He turned swiftly and started walking back toward the house leaving the bloodstain where it was. He would find a servant to clean it up as soon as he could, he was sure that it would bother some of the townspeople.
As he neared the manse the front door to his house banged open and Liam stuck his head outside and looked around. His brother looked around furtively before settling Jackson with an annoyed look. He motioned to Jackson to hurry up.
"What are you waiting for? Come on then!"
Jackson blinked in surprise but picked up his pace and followed his brother into the large house. It was more of a mansion actually; the house was something of a town hall as well as their living space. The city's main infirmary, treasury and meeting hall were housed there. He and his family lived mainly on the upper two floors only leaving the main floor for the town's various business. As the door to his home shut behind him Jackson was plunged into the darkness that always comes whenever one comes inside from out, leaving the light behind. He blinked until the shadow that covered his eyes was gone and then ran after Liam through the halls and to the infirmary where the wounded man waited.
A/N: I wasn't planning on posting again until Thursday to make it a full week but I'm hoping that by updating I'll gain a little more inspiration for Chapter 10 which I'm currently working on.
Just a little note, this is a 2-part novel and so far, Chapter 1 is currently the shortest chapter (by quite a bit in some cases). I hope you enjoy!
Ending of Forever - Thanks for reviewing :) I'm glad you liked the prologue, I like it too :) I hope you keep reading and enjoying!