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Jack Of All Trades
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-023-8
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Romance
eBook Length: 178 Pages
Published: October 2012



From inside the flap

When Jack Bywater moves to the small town of Tolchester, he doesn’t expect to stay long. A curse is following him, and he doesn’t want to know what will happen if it catches up.

Tolchester isn’t like most towns, though. Soon Jack and his pet dragon Pepper are mixed up in the search for a magical artifact—and they’re not the only ones searching. Jack must outwit wasp-men and fairies, angry ghosts and cross neighbors, all while working as an odd-jobs man.

Then Jack falls in love. Suddenly, he doesn’t want to leave Tolchester at all—even if it means facing his curse.

Jack Of All Trades (Excerpt)


Prologue

It Pays to Advertise

"You’ll never get anywhere, Pepper, if you don’t advertise." Jack set his leather bag in the grass and rummaged inside it, taking out a hammer, a jar of nails, and a square of cardboard. He glanced down at Pepper, who watched him without comprehension but with her usual boundless good humor. "When I say you, of course I mean me."

He laughed, and Pepper opened her remarkable jaws wide in a doglike grin. She looked a little like an oversized bulldog, except that she was bright red and had a long tail. Her smoothly-scaled hide gleamed in the morning sunshine.

Jack turned to the wooden fence beside him. It was sturdy, and while it wasn’t in a particularly busy location, the same could be said of the entire town. He and Pepper stood on the edge of Tolchester’s main thoroughfare, a neatly kept dirt road. It was entirely deserted.

Jack nailed the cardboard to the fence with four swift strokes, handling the hammer with the ease of long use. When he was done he stepped back to examine his handiwork.

The card was cheaply printed, but drew the eye. It read:

Jack of All Trades

Jack Bywater, 17 Lonas Lane

Carpenter * Plumber * Cook * Wizard * Smith

Coach Driver * Beastmaster * Scribe * Musician

I can turn my hand to anything

"That’s sure to get us some trade," Jack said. He rubbed his beard absently with his knuckles. He had only grown the beard recently and wasn’t certain he liked it. It was short and tidy, dark brown like his hair. Jack himself was not very tall and was a little stout, but he looked strong as well. If people are said to grow to look like their dogs, Jack had grown to look like his dragon: friendly, open, and perhaps just a bit stupid.

"Here, you! You can’t post notices on that fence. It’s private property."

Jack turned and tipped his hat to the approaching policeman. "I’m sorry, constable. I didn’t know. I’ll remove it at once."

"See that you do that," the constable said, but he sounded both mollified and distracted. He stared at Pepper. "Is that animal safe?"

"Of course. That’s Pepper; she’s quite tame. Pepper, sit up."

Pepper had been slouched in the grass with her tail trailing into the street. She sat up on her haunches now, forepaws folded against her barrel chest, and watched Jack’s face. Sitting like that, her head came to Jack’s waist.

"Good girl." Jack rested his hand on the dragon’s head. She relaxed and grinned again, her pointed tongue lolling over a double row of fangs. "See? She’s as tame as a dog."

The constable looked unconvinced, but as Pepper was now leaning against Jack’s legs and gazing up at him adoringly, he apparently could find nothing to complain about. "Well, see that you keep her under control. She could do a great deal of damage to livestock."

"I shall be very careful, I promise. I shouldn’t like to spook anyone’s cattle or sheep, even by accident. That wouldn’t be a good way to meet new neighbors." Jack smiled and began prying the nails from the fence.

"Oh, so you’re the man who’s taken Rose Cottage, are you?" The last traces of suspicion disappeared from the constable’s round face.

"Is that what it’s called? It’s a good name; I’ve never seen more roses in one garden."

"That was thanks to old Mr. Segall, who had the house until last autumn. He moved to Hillgate to live with his daughter. A keen gardener." The constable caught the card, which, freed from its last nail, fluttered away from the fence. "Beastmaster?" he said, after reading the card. "Do you know much about horses?"

"Oh, yes. Do you have a beast you need trained or retrained?"

The constable pushed his helmet back to rub his forehead. Jack thought he looked a bit worried. "My nephew has a colt he can’t break. There’s something odd wrong with it, my nephew says, and he knows horses. He keeps the finest stable in the county."

"I’d be happy to take a look. Free of charge, as I’m new to town."

"Oh? That’s generous. I’ll tell him to expect you tomorrow, then. Goodacre, his name is."

"I look forward to meeting him. In the meantime, is there someplace where I can post my notices lawfully?"

"There’s a board at market. Take the third left and go a quarter mile. You’ll see it." The policeman gestured down the road, then offered Jack’s card back to him.

"Do keep it. I have more." Jack tipped his hat again. "Thanks very much. Come along, Pepper."

With Pepper ambling at his heels, and his bag of notices over his shoulder, Jack walked along the street. It was a stroke of luck that he had a job first thing, after only moving into Rose Cottage two days before. Sometimes it took him weeks to get his first nibble, particularly in the smaller villages. Close-knit communities were always the most suspicious of outsiders.

Tolchester seemed a friendly place, though. He liked the look and feel of it, and trusted his judgment in such matters. It was only a pity that he couldn’t stay.

He couldn’t stay anywhere for very long, no matter how much he wished he could. It would catch up to him.