The Watchmen of Mount Volos
The Island of Mount Volos was the largest volcanic island in all of The Lands. The gigantic mountain scraped the sky as it hovered over all of her citizens. On most days, the snow blanketed crater would sit well on top of the clouds and remained hidden from the thousands of people below. It was presumed that the volcano formed the island over hundreds of centuries and that it had never erupted again since. It rested in the Eastern Waters within close proximity to its neighboring isles and lands. The archipelago consisted of several smaller islands, but only Volos, the main and largest of them all, was habitable. The crystal clear beaches and scenery made it a popular tourist destination. Hundreds of private coves bordered the island amongst pits of sparkling clean sand. It was home to majestic animals and birds that were native to the island. The food was distinctly piquant, offering the freshest plants and leanest fish and meats. However, there was still fear amongst the citizens that Mount Volos could potentially erupt at any time. This also kept travelers from staying longer than a few days, but the natives ignored this speculation and lived happily on their island whilst embracing their culture through many generations. The island eventually became populated by hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.
As their population grew over the years, the native leaders realized the importance of building safeguards in case of an eruption. Decades ago, they were gifted with an insurmountable amount of treasure from a foreign king and eventually used much of it to fund their plans. They built a fleet of large ships and docked them around the perimeter of the shores. They were only to be used to board citizens in the event of an eruption and separate them from the land as fast as possible before the lava flowed in. To be sure they afforded enough time to board the vessels, they also built a series of towers and staircases across the mountain that led up to the tip of the crater. Fire signals would be sent along each tower to alert the leaders of an emergency evacuation. The upper half of Mount Volos was always engulfed in clouds and mist, and earthquakes were almost daily occurrences. For these reasons, the towers were crucial for the people to know if an eruption was occurring, otherwise they would only notice the lava spewing from below the clouds.
It took eight years to complete all nine towers and staircases. The construction claimed the lives of thousands of men who had tragically fallen from clumsy missteps, or died from illnesses due to the altitude and severe conditions which their bodies did not properly acclimate.
The towers were separated between five to eight hundred meters apart and were employed by a rotating staff of twenty seven watchmen at once. An ascending pair of watchmen were stationed at each tower for two months. When they completed their final watch on Tower Nine, one man would go to Tower Eight and the other to Tower Seven. They would stay for one month at every other tower until their full descent. They became the third man at each tower to temporarily help the ascending pair gather food and materials. It also made sure to provide enough time for their bodies to acclimate for their descent.
Small cabins were built at the foot of each tower to provide them shelter. They would start out with crates full of their own personal belongings and hunting gear, and gradually fill them along their journey with fruit picked from the trees and gamed meat. The towers were strategically built alongside a waterfall and river that flowed down from Tower Six. Being next to water was essential for constant hydration and finding wildlife to hunt. The remaining higher towers stood in freezing conditions, and so the men would chip ice blocks from the frozen alpine river to melt and drink, while continuing the more difficult task of hunting animals in frozen territories.
The watchmen were compensated generously as they undertook extremely harsh conditions and endangered their own lives. They were also rewarded with the highest patches of honor from the leaders through public ceremonies upon their descent to Tower One. A completion of a full watch from all of the towers was required to receive the honor, which totaled close to two years (including the four month descent). The distinct patch made the wearers immensely popular amongst the people and so they were often treated with exuberant kindness and privilege. Over time, myths and legends would be sung over their heroism of surviving the terrors of Mount Volos. For these reasons, men trained diligently to compete in The Watchmen Tournaments all their lives in hopes of becoming the next watchman.
One afternoon, an announcement was made that a descending watchman had been spotted. A massive crowd formed for the celebration at the base of Tower One. A young boy fought his way through the crowds to find a clear view to watch the ceremony. Thousands eventually formed and cheered on the tired watchmen as he dragged his feet down the staircase that led to the tower. The staircase at the base entry would usually be blocked off with a giant wooden gate; however, leaders with armed men had surrounded the opened gate ready to honor the watchman. The crowd cheered as they watched the exhausted man make his final strides towards the finishing bell. He gripped onto the iron pendulum with all his might and rang it proudly. The massive crowd cheered and applauded the new idol as men, women, and children frothed their mouths with celebratory chants. The young boy was the only one in the midst not celebrating. Fixated with a villainous grin, he basked in his own silence as he watched the man received treatment of a god.