High in the stone tower, Zak Longnose looked out across the fields towards the dark forest. A week had passed since his birthday. He was now twelve years old, and with age came responsibility. It was his duty to spend two hours each night keeping guard over the village that huddled around the base of the tall watchtower.
Clouds drifted across the full moon, blocking Zak’s view of the fields and the forest edge.
“Can’t see anything now,” Zak grumbled to himself. “I wish I was in bed.”
After only a week of watchtower duty, Zak was bored. He had thought this would be exciting, standing guard over the whole village each night, keeping Shallowtown, a small trading village of two hundred Predults, safe from an unknown enemy. Each night as he stood in the tower, wrapped in his black cloak, he thought about whom it was that he was watching out for. The more he thought about it, the more he realised that no one had ever told him what the danger was. All anyone ever said was ‘Look out for trouble’ or ‘If you see anything strange, ring the bell.’ For as long as Zak could remember, the bell had never been rung by a Watcher. Only when the Great South Wind blew, did the bell ring.
Zak was just starting to nod off when he heard the sound of boots climbing the stone stairs. With lantern in hand, Tom Pointear emerged from the stairwell, illuminating the small lookout post with a faint golden glow. Tom was a year older than Zak, and was an old hand at watcher’s duty. Once, many months ago, Tom had almost rung the bell, but the “enemy” had turned out to be only a bear scrounging on the forest edge, skinny and hungry from its long winter sleep. Since then, Tom only ever kept one weary eye on the forest, allowing himself to drift in and out of sleep.