Hi guys, new to the forum, basically i'm writing a novel. Wanna know if i should take this further, any thoughts would be greatly, greatly appreciated. Chapter I The Return of Pono & Munster “JACKIE!? JACKIE!?” The fat innkeeper stood hunch-backed in the doorway of his homely little Inn, calling out across the town of Seaton Hill for his young charge. Seaton Hill, a small little town made of cobble, thatch and sod sat between the mountains and the sea and was the largest of the handful of small towns that littered the Merriweather coast; most were fishing villages and trader outposts, centres of commerce for travellers, traders and merchants from across the land. Seaton Hill was no different really, just larger and with half a dozen piers that made for a dock. Through the centre of town ran a thin little cobbled road, slightly overgrown with fingers of grass poking up through the gaps grasping at the sun. Eventually the stone snake sheds its skin and becomes a down trodden old dirt path leads through the valley, and up into the mountains. “Where is the whelp?” The innkeeper muttered. He had one good eye and one ghostly eye, a hooked nose and purple blotches on his cheeks, like a man who’d been out in the cold too long. He wobbled out from the doorway into the street; a stiff neck stopped him turning his head in any direction, so he hobbled about on the spot looking rather silly, surveying the landscape. “JACKIE?!” he can’t see me up here. He waddled around to shrug at his wife who was staring incredulously through the window, a mixing bowl clutched to her breast. High above, perched on top of the roof in the afternoon sun, sat a scruffy little boy with long brown shaggy hair garbed in ragged urchin clothes. He shuffled forward to the edge of the roof; the Innkeeper looked up with his good eye, his neck stiff as stone. Jackie peered over the edge. “You get down here, boy. There’s a van coming through, they’ll be needing beds and there’s bread to bake when you get back, Marcy needs you”. Jackie knew better than to argue, Master was a simple man, heavy of hand and quick to anger. The last time Jackie had shown a hint of reluctance toward his master he’d gotten a clip around the head with a wooden spoon, (and before that, a slipper. And before that, a belt) so it was best not to dawdle. He knew the van would never arrive though. It had been at least half a year since anything bigger than a horse drawn cart had come down the mountain. Nevertheless, a hop jump and a skip later he found himself on ground level, following his master into the Inn - The Rotten Dwarf. The world got a little darker as Jackie stepped in his master’s wake into the gloom of the common hall, the ceiling was high and he would often make a past-time of climbing the lofts and support beams, even swinging on the chains that held great iron chandeliers in place (whenever the master wasn’t around that is), rough-hewn benches and long-tables populated the ground, each as shoddy as the next, lanterns half filled the room with light, glowing brown and orange through cloudy glass. A rat scurried past his feet kicking straw up from the floor. They walked through the common hall into the back-kitchens where an endless wall of pots, pans and utensils hung from hooks and pegs, in yesteryears the Rotten Dwarf was said to be a commodity, being the first Inn travellers come to once they descend the treacherous mountain path, Old man Wrinkle had told Jackie in his cups that the now desolate common hall had once been bustling with the laughter, dance and song. Every night the singers would swoon the maidens and brave young men who’d had a few too many would duel to the death in the street outside. Now the bowls and flagons that had once filled the bellies of high lords and noblemen hung dusty and lonely up on the shelves. Master rounded on his wife, peering over her shoulder and sniffing like a mutt at the mixing bowl. “-Bloody layabouts and Vagabonds the lot of them! We’ll have coin this time or –“ “Shut your mouth, woman.” “You should have him do it!” Jackie didn’t know what it was but it made no matter. They would often bicker. “And leave you sitting on your arse ‘til the end-times? Ha!” He snorted a sound halfway between a horse and a pig when he laughed. Of late they had been arguing more frequently and at night after his master had closed the door to where Jackie pretended to be asleep, he could hear them talking hurriedly in hushed voices through the wall. Something of late was amiss. “Make me do what?” CRACK. Bad idea. A ladle this time in favour of the spoon. “You’ll get another if you don’t keep shut!” the bitch snapped. She placed the bowl on the counter and buried her hand between the folds of her breast and produced a silver locket, with a shiny purple stone inset. She was head shorter than Master, but slightly more plump, and just as ugly. It dangled in her claws swaying slightly, so beautiful it looked out of place in the clutches of the nasty witch. She turned to face Jackie full on. “You know what this is?” He shook his head. “Good. You are to take it, run it up to the Big-House, and give it to nobody else but Truthfull Armstead. Now, what are going to do?” He recited his lines. “Take it. Run it up to the Big-House, and give it to nobody else but Truthfull Armstead.” She grabbed his wrist and thrust the locket in his palm. Master gave him a kick to spur him on his way, and a few moments later he was back outside. The weather was beautiful, humid with a light breeze as welcome as a lovers kiss. Down the path he strolled past one room hovels, chicken coops and livestock pens, fishermen carrying nets and house-wives beating rugs that hung on the line. On and on he walked, the town coming alive around him, until he reached the strange building with the red lantern outside, probably the only one nearly as big as the Rotten Dwarf in the whole of Seaton Hill. Sandra was there in the doorway as he approached, beaming a toothy grin from ear to ear. “Jackie-boy!” She clasped his face in her hands, her many rings and bracelets were cool to the touch on his cheek and she smelled of lavender and cinnamon. She wore an intricately laced bodice, showing the top of her round breasts and a long skirt that swept when she walked. “Causing trouble?” her long auburn curls framed her neck and shoulders. “A little” Jackie grinned. “Got to take this up to the Big-house for Master” He held up the locket up to show her, it glinted in the afternoon sun. She let go of his face and put her hands on her hips, “Big job!” she said in feigned awe. Sandra had always been nice to Jackie, he would often come down to the window below her room and she would toss out sweets for him or blow him a kiss. Compared with his fat Master with his sniffling nose and bad cough, Sandra was always a pleasant sight. Slight of build, and tall in her heels that clicked when she walked, a herald of her coming. Everybody in town liked Sandra, especially Jackie. “Would you be so kind as to walk a lady down to the market?” He was hoping she’d say that, he smiled, bowed, and held out his arm. She took it graciously and the two of them continued down the road. Her nails were rose red today. “You should come by The Dwarf later; Master says there’s to be a van” “Oh does he?” she fiddled with the braids and beads that hung in her hair with her free hand “I might.” She pondered, curling a finger in her hair “Those heroes should be coming back any day now I hear? Hopefully with that monsters head on a spike” “I think he just wants to be left alone. It must be cold up there on the mountain all day and all night.” “nobody to keep him company, I’ll go up perhaps?” she grinned at him. Nudging him gently as they strolled. “I don’t think so, I’d have to come all that way and rescue you wouldn’t I?” She had eight years on Jackie’s eleven, a grown woman, but they shared a kin-ship that was absent in all Jackie’s friends his own age, perhaps because they were both orphans. “Never was there a more gallant knight!” she fluttered. They walked a little more, arm in arm toward the town centre in light-hearted exchange. Past the smithy and his bellows, past bakers’ stalls and smoky caravans that smelled of incense with sounds of wind chimes coming from within. Fishmongers hawked their wares and shoe shine boys shouted out at passers-by, it was a busy day in Seaton Hill. Finally, they came to a halt in the busy market square; Sandra swept down to plant a soft wet kiss on Jackie’s cheek, before bidding farewell and spinning on her heels to start for the apothecary. Jackie watched her skirts swish and flow at the hem as she left; the big-house was just up to the west, away from town and docks, through the coppice. The hustle and bustle of trade and townsfolk were replaced by the symphony of birds as Jackie strolled. Through the coppice he went, humming in high spirits despite the sting of the growing lump on his head. A kiss from Sandra could surely null any pain inflicted by Marcy’s wooden spoon. Jackie hated Marcy. And Master. They were always so bitter, quick to flare up in anger at the least provocation, it wasn’t fair. He had no idea how he even came to be in the care of Master, scrubbing floors and crawling into every nook and cranny of the Rotten dwarf with a feather duster, night after night of washing dishes and cups, cleaning windows and running errands, crying in pain with the blisters on his feet from long journeys to Smallwood grove, or crouching under trees and shrubs to hide from the rain on over-night journeys. Master didn’t care much for Jackie’s comfort, and being so fat and lazy he liked to advocate any responsibility that might involve walking to Jackie. “Keeps you fit” he’d grunt before shoving a parcel in Jackie’s hands and pushing him out the door. Jackie had to be glad though, there was talk of trouble on the mountain path of late and with fewer visitors to Seaton Hill, the smaller the variety odd-jobs Jackie would find himself undertaking. Once, Jackie had been lumbered with a large leather pack an hour before sunset, which must have been half of his body weight at the least, and was told to take it to the postal office of Smallwood grove, “If you die, you’ll die of cold, not of dark.” – Masters last words before unceremoniously shoving him out the front door.