The Startling Toad – extract from Ratatatat

The Startling Toad was well known as a Goblin bar – and with a name like The Startling Toad it would be stupid to expect otherwise. The innkeeper – Charlie – was human as far as was human as far as it was possible for the observer to tell and Aberddu born and bred,aving grown up here when the city was actually just the Royal Port of Albion. He had mostly kept his head down during independence – which had been achieved by remarkably bloodless but mysterious means – and emerged into the newly born Free-state with wide eyes and a nose that could sniff out profit at a thousand yards. In a place like this a low-born stable hand could get rich if he was smart and Charlie and was very smart. He’d spotted a gap in the market it and with a bit of borrowed cash and a lot of cheek he managed to fill it. Goblins get everywhere, like a peculiar talking rash. In a major trading port like Aberddu they were everywhere; ships used them as skivvies because they preferred to work for barta, considered maggots a treat and didn’t mind the smell of the bilge in the hull. The only problem with them was that they enjoyed being keel-hauled which meant they were difficult to punish unless you were more inventive. Goblins like all sailors of calibre would swarm off ship when they made port and drink everything in sight until they ran out of pay – and this is where Charlie’s genius came in. Goblins are a unique experience, and not to everybody’s taste. Also, because they preferred barta to coin often found themselves out of luck when it came drinking their wages in most regular inns. However, Charlie would take just about anything as payment – he had a very inventive fence – and didn’t mind the random noises or smells that his little green friends produced. He opened the Startling Toad with in staggering distance of the docks and the Ddu and within three years had made himself a small fortune and an interesting reputation. He had also had seventeen cases of scrofula, twenty one bouts of ringworm, five different types of parasite and a linger dose of white-powdered mildew. Charlie didn’t care, apart from when he couldn’t stand the itching, he was raking it in and having a blast to boot.

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