A long time ago, back before there were cars or TV or electricity lived a little girl in a land far across the sea. She was the daughter of a minor noble family and as was common for the time, she had been arranged from birth to marry another noble. You see, back then being relatives was safer than anything else to make friends and allies so who you were married to was very important to your family. And because little girls would never become important nobles themselves, their biggest job of their lives was to be married to one. Now you would say that this was very sad, but that was the way things were back then.
So the little girl was sent away to learn how to be the best wife she could for when the time came that she would finally be married. She was to learn all the ways of nobility, how to be fancy and do a great many tasks, and so the little girl was put with other children who also were to be taught these things. With the other children she met many people and had many friends. As she grew up though, the little girl met a noble boy a little older than her. He was silly, friendly, and the two had a great time together wherever they went. They caused trouble all up and down the land and were friends through and through.
As the two grew older though, the girl realized that the boy was not just her friend nor just a boy. He was growing into a man and becoming as much a part of her as her own hands or her smile. The girl was becoming a young woman and in doing so had fallen hopelessly, utterly in love. Unfortunately, promised to another man, most tales of this sort turn tragic as the two are pulled apart by their fate. Here though, luck smiled upon the two.
The young man was a youngest son of a higher noble family than the woman’s, too distant from the titles to inherit their power or wealth he was left to his own devices and betrothed to no one. Yet for the lower nobles of the woman’s family her marriage to him would raise their own standing more than the marriage that had been arranged years before. Both young man and woman pleaded with her parents and after a time they conceded and the two were allowed to be together. There they lived with each other for many years growing wiser and closer, always totally happy for one had the other.
Sadly this was not to last forever. For in a nearby land the king had died without an heir and many sought after it. This included the king of the country where the man and woman lived and so the king called up his armies to settle the chaos that began erupting and to assert his own claim to the throne. The man who had lived so well from the freedoms of his noble family now found himself bound to join the ranks of the armies that were being rallied and march to the war.
The woman pleaded to go with him, or to flee to some unknown distant land where there was no fighting. She was willing to do whatever it took to not be parted from the love of her life. However, the man could not bear to see the woman enter into harm’s way for she too was a part of him just as he was of her. The man told her to stay at home and that he would return from the war. The woman thought of many ways to try and follow, to be with the man but settled for none. She would wait until he returned and then they would be together again.
To be parted from the woman, even knowing she would be safe was still too much for the man though. His station afforded him an expensive but useful item of a timepiece and so the man received a pocket watch of the latest fashion. Onto the inside of the rear case of the watch, the man had the image of the woman painted carefully and ever so small by a painter. Now he could look upon her when they were apart and she would stay near his heart as piece sat within a pocket upon his chest. The two parted sorrowfully, each hoping for another moment together and knowing that even with that extra time they would still end up alone until the other returned.
The man went on to the war and spent many months away from the woman always just outside of danger as he went about his time. The woman meanwhile prayed and wept for him to return safely, she dreaded and cursed herself what she would do if he did not return at all. After many months however soldiers grow restless and so the man was allowed to return home for a time. There he found the woman waiting for him and the two were together for a few beautiful weeks.
All the joy and love for each other had only grown in the other’s absence and those weeks they were together were the best of any in their lives. Love, joy, passion… These words cast mere shadows of what the two felt for one another. But time passes and those weeks ended, the man had to return to his war and so again the woman’s hear broke and again waited.
Now, not all men return from war. It is the nature of war. The woman knew when the man had promised her that he would return that he might in fact not. She languished over the many ways that he could fall to bullet or sword, disease or accident. There is one tragedy though that is worse than a man never returning from war, for everyone is steeled for the possibility. No one thinks of the joyous return only to find no one waiting for him when he arrives.
The man had been gone from his leave for several months but it would be many more before he returned. The woman was doing her best to live her life in his absence when she came down with a feeling of illness. She contacted her friends and a doctor was called to see to her but the woman had come down with a sweating sickness, a brutal and swift disease than has thankfully not been seen in this world living memory. The illness had struck the woman after breakfast and yet she was dead before the sun had fallen.
The story does not end there however. The woman’s spirit would not go on to rest for she knew of only one heaven and that was still on earth. So instead of traveling to the great beyond the woman’s soul latched onto a memento close to the man’s heart, the pocket watch still bearing the woman’s image upon its interior case. There the woman’s ghost lay at rest, unable to be with him as she had when she was alive yet comforted by his closeness. The man still held the watch close, it was his lifeline to the woman whose fate he had yet to learn. So it came to pass that he had it close when danger finally found him.
It was a battle, a bloody cruel thing that ate up men and spat out corpses. Armor was a thing of the past, yet firearms lacked the accuracy to be of much use of their own so men lined up and shot at each other en mass. It was in one of these that the man found himself and so it should be no surprise when a musket ball found his chest as it had to so many others around him. The man however had one thing that they did not, a watch sitting in his front pocket. The result was sill devastating though, the watch shattered and a hole was cut into him that bled like a river. The ghost of the woman watched, unable to do anything as her only anchor was torn apart and left a broken mess, soaked in the lifeblood of the man she loved. Her only solace being that if he died that they could finally be together again.
These were barbaric times in warfare but the man was an officer and the son of a noble and so, bleeding out, he was pulled from the battlefield and the lingering ghost of the woman so that he might be saved. The shade of the woman was left alone once again, this time surrounded by the carnage of the battlefield rather than the familiar walls and streets of their home. So the ghost of the woman lingered and wept.
Through this sea of battle a curious and wholly unnoticed creature came, unknown by all participants. This strange creature fed on the dead and dying in order to reach its adulthood, resuscitating and reconstituting a single entity using its own body as material. Hundreds of people perished that day on a field littered with corpses and by some miracle that curious little entity came upon the only one that had not died that day, a broken watch awash with blood and with a lingering soul overhead. With those components, the being had everything it wanted to rebuild a body and did so with gusto.
It devoured the shattered remains of the time piece and sponged up the spilt blood of the dying man, picking out the original form from the destroyed remains. With this form in mind, the creature spun the distraught ghost into the new body it was creating, the woman un-noticing in her grief as it took shape around her. The rebirth was not a long process and at last it finished; the woman’s ghost was a ghost no longer. The woman had been reborn into the form that the creature had taken for her dying body soaked as it was in blood and death. The woman was now born into a pocket watch.
But you see, a pocket watch it not like a normal body. It lacks the ability to move about on its own, to speak, or eat. The new pocket watch sat on the field and was unable to do a thing but tick away the minutes paralyzed. Eventually the battle came to an end and the pocket watch was found on the battlefield and kept by another soldier. The new watch however did not want this, she had seen the man she wished to be with carried off and wanted to follow after. Mentally she writhed and screamed for days until she came upon a strange quirk of her new body and it shifted form.
The soldier was astounded! His looted watch possessed a magical power to change form to many metal or glass devices! Moreover the watch it seemed intelligent and would often respond to his requests for this or that form. The watch though was still unable to speak to him, though it was often moody and would spitefully change its form if he did not care for it. The soldier kept the pocket watch for the whole of the war, his miracle device kept secret within his close friends until at last the war ended and the man had to march home.
The watch meanwhile was inconsolable. She had been gifted again with a life, but one which it seemed she was to be denied the man. The soldier and his friends were a pleasant diversion but on the end of the war she was left with only the occasional interactions with the soldier. He would talk to her and keep her company, but the march home was quiet and he was alone and out of breath for much of it. The watch began to grow tired from the days and fell into a stupor. Unable to rouse her, the soldier assumed the miracle that had gifted him the magic watch had run its course now that the war was over. The now former soldier kept the pocket watch though as a memento of his time in the military.
So it was for years the watch lay in its torpor, nothing more than an ordinary timepiece even to herself. Eventually the former soldier sold the watch, for it was still worth a great deal of money and a memento on a shelf does not pay bills. Tales of the magic of the watch did not pass along with it and the watch eventually found itself on display in a great city. Many saw it and handled it there but eventually a giant of a man who was perusing the displays saw that watch for what she was. He was of the same origin of the miraculous creatures and could tell that she was no ordinary watch. He carefully purchased her and eventually coaxed the pocket watch awake.
Older and wiser, he could see that she was in a tough way. Unable to assume a human or animal form, she was paralyzed and mute trapped by the nature of her new existence. In clockwork though, the watch could be made to move under its own power and so the giant endeavored to teach the lonely device everything there was to know about it. After months of learning and training, the pocket watch could finally assume a form with enough mobility to communicate.
So it was that the watch told the giant her story and begged to let her search for the man she missed. She could not do this on her own however for she was still nothing more than a pocket watch and could not go about the world by herself. Even if she could she would only risk falling again into her torpor without companions. The giant was kind and understanding, he took the pocket watch in search of the man that she missed. The two and more companions besides made their way to the pocket watch’s old home, though years had passed since the end of the war.
The watch did not find the man though, only her own lonely grave. The townsfolk who lived there told the searching band a story of a woman who died which her man was at war and of a man who returned only to leave when he saw what he had left was gone. The band looked and looked but the trail ran cold and no more could be found of the man. Eventually they gave up, even the pocket watch at last decided it was hopeless. She could not drag her new friends after her own quest forever.
So the pocket watch lived again, learned and grew to try and regain some measure of the humanity that she had lost. She looked when she was able, but the watch was hampered by her torpors and inhuman form. In the end she never again saw the man she loved nor discovered where he had gone. Eventually the sorrow and loss settled to the depths of her mind where they could not muddy her new life. Sometimes though something would come by and stir up all of those dark things that had settled and in those times, it was as though the years had not passed at all. The watch was back again in that land far across the sea and the pain was again as fresh as the day her heart had been broken.