Clara liked The Startling Toad, apart from the fact that you could pay for beer with barter, she found the goblins easier to talk to and totally unbothered by her youthful appearance. Besides, the singing was hilarious. On this particular visit, Clara was relieved to discover that whilst Charlie was happy to accept virtually anything of a not-too-perishable nature as payment he also accepted coins. She had filched two silver florins from the coffers and headed straight for the Toad the moment she’d been left unsupervised. If Charlie hadn’t accepted the money, she would have probably gone to the market and bought him a couple of brace of rabbits instead. As it happened, Charlie was so confused by the unsolicited offer of two silver coins that he was rendered speechless and forced to check their validity. Once satisfied that they were genuine, he put them ‘behind the bar’ handed her a full tankard and told her to come back when it was empty.
That had been some time around the morning eleven hour. It was now approaching dusk and Clara had taken full advantage for her bottomless tankard. She was lying on the floor under a table, giggling merrily to herself as she listened to recitation of the 'old goblin favourite' Pushing Round De Shiny Moon by an extraordinary goblin she had met a couple of hours previously and had taken and instant shine to. Pudding The Goblin - full name 'Bread and Butter Pudding with Custard' - was a goblin bard because only goblins could consider what she did to be bardic. She was small, round and bawdy and dressed in what can only be described as a festival of brightly-coloured poor taste, topped by a cloth covered bowler hat that boasted at least seven different religious symbols.
Clara had been listening to her 'repertoire' for nearly two hours now and both of them were so drunk that they hadn't noticed Pudding only knew seven pieces at least three of which contained an awful lot of 'tum-it-tum...something or other'. It was lucky for the pair of them that the pub was relatively empty and that what clientèle there was had consumed as much ale as they had.
Clara was just joining in yet another rousing chorus of 'She Likes It Like A Well-boiled Ham, Pink And Firm And Juicy' when she found herself unceremoniously dragged out from under the table by her ankles. With bemused irritation she opened her mouth to abuse whoever had hold of her and found herself staring at the furious face of Angel.
"What do you think you're doing?" she snapped, hauling Clara to standing by the shoulders of her tunic.
"I'm singin'"slurred Clara, "or at least I though' I was. Am I not?" She then dissolved into a hopeless, helpless tittering mess. Angel, who didn't find the present situation remotely amusing, snatched hold of Clara's ear. Pinching so hard that Clara's normally pinkish ear turned white under her thumb, Angel started dragging her towards the door.
"Your drunk," she growled,
"Well spo'ed," chuckled Clara, not about to let Angel's anger effect her bonhomie,
"We've got work to do," Angel continued in a sour whisper, with her mouth close to the pinched ear.
"Shit," exclaimed Clara with a look of genuine terror, "Is it Sunday already?" Angel didn't dignify that with a response, she just snorted.
At this point Pudding stepped up, clearly aggrieved. She cleared her throat, swayed slightly and in an hilariously fake Royal Albion accent said,
"Hexcuse me my good woman! Would you care to explain this rumpus?" Angel just stared at her, she had no idea how to respond. Pudding, sensing the need for more authority drew herself up to her completely insubstantial height, an act that only served to emphasis her terrifying striped bosom, grabbed hold of her braces and said, "Madam would you kindly let go of my hassociate" She slurred the word hassociate so badly it had nearly twice the syllables it needed. It was very obvious from the sight of her holding tight to her braces that she was so drunk that her eyeballs may well have been floating. She clearly didn't dare let go of her suspenders in case she fell over. At this point, if Angel had had any kind of sense of the ridiculous she would have started laughing. Instead, with a completely deadpan face, she looked Pudding straight in the swimming eyes and said,
"Who the hell are you?"
"Madam, I am Bread and Pudding Butter with Goblin the Custard!" declared the goblin with all due pomposity, wobbling dangerously as she tipped her hat."And I am a highly renowned bard and prestidigitator of the finest calibre." The word prestidigitator took two run ups, but she managed the whole thing with a perfectly straight face. "And the young lady you have so forcefully by the ear is my 'ssociate Crara Clopper." As a final punctuation, she pinged her braces hard and instantly regretted it. The forces of the suspenders snapping at her shoulders sent her off her very delicate balance. She went into an uncontrollable sway and Angel, who was still not smiling, simply leaned forward and with one hand gave her an almost imperceptible nudge. It was a cruel, calculated and accurate gesture, proving to be just enough to cause the goblin to topple over completely. She hit the floor with a dull thwack and her feet flew up over her head in a flash of glorious technicolour. Angel didn't pause to help her up, she just dragged a protesting Clara out of the door.
"So long fair Clara," declaimed Pudding, waving theatrically from her prone position. "See you on the other side." Clara didn't reply, she didn't have the chance. She was preoccupied by Angel who had her by the scruff and was about to dump her in the horse trough.