Welcome to Warlock's Bar and Grille, where the Witches, Warlocks, Werewolves, Valkyries, Fairies, Vampire Roofers, and Trolls of New Oslo gather to eat, drink, gamble, and gossip. In New Oslo, anything can happen.
The owners of Warlock's Bar and Grille, Warlock Abel Crochet, and his Witch-wife Mary Mistral, unintentionally attract the dark magic of a Black Fairy that puts Mary and their daughter Gay in danger.
With the help of the good, magical citizens of New Oslo, Abel must find a way to reverse the curse or he will never see his wife or daughter again.
Donald Bruce Callander
March 23, 1930 -- July 25, 2008
Don Callander was the best-selling author of the 'Mancer series and the Dragon Companion series. Don originally worked as a travel writer/photographer and graphic designer before retiring to start his writing.
Don was born in Minneapolis, brought up in Duluth, Minnesota, and graduated from high school there before enlisting in the U. S. Navy in 1947. After serving four years on active duty (including the Korean War) he transferred to the Naval Reserve where he served as a 'weekend warrior' for twenty additional years.
He settled in Washington, D.C., where he married, raised four children, and worked on the Washington Post newspaper and in National Headquarters of the American Automobile Association (40,000,000 members!) until his retirement in 1991.
During his retirement, Don lived in Florida and at the age of 62, began writing his bestselling fantasy books until he passed away in 2008.
I slid a generous tankard of Old Iron Miner’s Ale in front of the much-admired Mamie Fargeon Pluvius and added a schoonerful of Twisted Sisters Pretzels, just delivered from the new Yiddish Housewife Kosher Delicatessen & Bagel Bakery over on Endo Lane.
“Merriam’s test-marketing,” I explained. “Tell me what you think.”
Mamie put down her tankard and popped the first pretzel into her (generous, if nothing else) mouth and bit in.
“M-m-m-m-m! Ver’ nice, Host! These made by me old fiend... I mean friend... Merriam? Myron’s fat little wife? I’m impressed!”
“Yes, plump little Merriam and her daughter the folk poetess Mystic.”
“There must be a story there,” said Chef Sonny, who’d emerged from his kitchen to greet Mamie, his mother, just in from her palatial ranch house, bodega, and vineyard, a distance out in the hills northwest of New Oslo.
“I don’t pretend to know it all, despite what my wife claims,” said I modestly, “but word is Merriam opened the bakery to get her last unmarried daughter out of the house...and maybe meet somebody suitable for marriage. After all, “I imitated Merriam,” she’s over eighteen, now!”
“Humph!” Mamie muttered in her beer. “Thirty, if she’s a day!”
Mamie never did appreciate Mystic’s ethereal poetry.
She preferred racy doggerel and salacious limericks with words of no more than three syllables each.
“And never fell for any man still alive.” I laughed. “I hear she still lights a candle at Happy Castigation Synagogue every Friday the Thirteenth for that Ed Poe guy in Old Baltimore! An incurable romantic, is our Mystic!”
“As for the pretzels,” Mamie’s son said judiciously, popping one into his mouth, “I say they are indeed quite good. And fresh! Pretzels have to be fresh, Host. Three days and they lose all their zing and zest, says I.”
Mamie tested a fistful more of the Twisted Sisters Pretzels and washed them down with the balance of her beer. Boy, without being told, slid another tankard toward me and I replaced the empty.
We both knew, to within a dram or two, what was any regular customer’s capacity—and Mamie’s wasn’t nearly up to it, yet.
She sipped her second brew more slowly, pausing regularly to breathe and scarf another fistful of pretzels.
“But I just don’t understand Merriam’s reasoning. Why a kosher bakery? How will that encourage poor Mystic to marry, I wonders?”
“You’ll have to ask her the reasons, yourself,” I said. “She’s standing just behind you. Listening!”
The wife of Vintner and Master Rainmaker Pluvius swallowed carefully to avoid choking then turned and grinned at Merriam.
“Shalom!” she said, smiling a bit weakly, I thought.
“Kiss me bum!” the Jewish housewife (and baker) said sweetly. “I never knew you were interested in Jewish marriage customs, Mamie, dear! I’m an expert, meself. Bore, raised, potty-trained, put up with and married off three other daughters. Lots of practice!”
“Maybe I should hire you to work on Sonny, then,” Chef’s mother sighed, waiting until her son had disappeared into his kitchen.
“Well, let’s talk about it. A good yenta doesn’t charge much. And only if she’s successful! Depends on what the traffic will bear.”
And the two of them picked up their drinks, and a new schooner of fresh Twisted Sisters Pretzels, and retired to the far corner of the early-evening Common Room of my Warlock’s Bar & Grille to talk motherly things like marriage portions and childbirth problems and earned commissions.
My beloved Mary Mistral, witch-wife unsurpassed in beauty and skill and love-making, came down the stairs from our suite on the second floor, bearing our plump, chuckling and glowing little girl of about a year old. Fresh from her nap and a bath, I noticed fondly.
I love my wife and I adore my daughter! In case there was ever any doubt.
Everybody knew it and approved of it. Myron Glaser, Mamie’s husband, once tried to warn me of things to expect in a few years.
“Pretty little girls becomes shrill monsters! Hormones, I suppose. Keep a tight rein on ’er, Host!”
“I understand perfectly,” I agreed—and promptly forgot it.
Chef Sonny Fargeon told me Jupe, his stepfather, was a perfectly wonderful stepfather. Not spoiled by experience.
Mary gave me a buss on the cheek, avoiding a dollop of leftover beer foam I had neglected to wipe away, and held our daughter up for a bit of a snuggle.
Little Gay licked the foam from my mustache and burped happily.
“I heard something at the market this morning,” said Mary, plumping Gay into Mamie’s comfortable lap. “Might be of interest, husband?”
“Good news—or bad?”
“Good...or maybe not? Prunella Sundby tells me her husband’s Pinipeds’ Boosters Club is planning a Gala Pre-Game Pep Rally here at Warlock’s this Saturday noon, before the Big Game!”
“Big Game? What Big Game?”
“Oh, Host!” chimed in Boy, my head mixologist, from behind his bar. “The Big Game. Season home opener for the Pinipeds! They’re expected to take regional and the national championships this year.”
Boy amazes me. He is a fountain of knowledge, both useful and trivial.
“Football, is it?” I asked innocently. “Well, Warlock’s Bar & Grille will be happy to host Mr. Sundby’s party, I should say. Even if the guys are football fans!”
“I thought you knew,” Boy apologized. “I forgot you aren’t a sports fan like so many middle-aged guys are, these days...”
“Thanks a lot!” I snorted.
“…well, I mean, a lot of mature men and even a lot of mature ladies get very—er—excited, I guess you’d say? When it comes to professional sports? The Pinipeds came close last season and are expected to do even better this year.”
Now, I have to admit to you I’m not an avid any kind of sports fanatic. Enjoy some fly-fishing, now and then. Golf’s good exercise, but takes too much time from my busy schedule of being a successful Host.
I keep up with the amateur softball teams locally (because the players always have great thirsts after a game) but I knew very little about the New Oslo Pinipeds except they usually finished below the middle, somewhere.
According to Boy, out of six professional football teams in the Northern League such as, say, Trondheim, Songesfiord, Minnetonka or Fargo, the New Oslo Pinipeds could usually be counted on to be solidly in fourth or fifth place every year.
But the ancient game known officially as American Football was otherwise a mystery to me...at that point. Boy had to explain to me the game was played on a hundred-yard grid-ironed field in any kind of weather at all, with eleven men to each side, all devoted to bloody mayhem and personal destruction against all opponents...and sometimes against each other, their coaches and spectators—which were, as noted, referred to as “fans.”
For “fanatics,” I guessed.
All new to me...at that point.
I was to learn. Fast!
So, with as many as twenty Pinipeds fans coming on Saturday to buy my best booze, eat Chef’s tacos y tortillas supremo drenched in Tabasco sauce and to sing bawdy songs loud enough to scare the darkness out of the Vampire Roofers in the attic and the spirits in the wine cellar, I decided to get some background about the game, or at least about the players and their adherents.
Be able to speak their language, maybe, a bit?
“You must know something about the game?” Myron the Master Builder, my chosen instructor, asked me for starters.
“I—ah!—well, thing is... Assume I never heard of the damn game. Why do they call it American football? Isn’t football—football?”
“N-o-o-o!” Myron considered slowly. “Some pretty important differences between British, Australian, Canadian and American games, actually. American traveled to the Near Stars, some centuries ago. The rest got lost in the rush for new worlds, somehow. I have no idea why!”
If the lack of popularity for cricket over baseball was any criteria, I said, it was probably the Brit’s more leisurely pace.
“I should think.” Myron laughed. “Although I don’t know that the Brits ever stopped play between scrimmages for tea. Which, as I recall, they do, even today, when playing at cricket!”
He started at the beginning.
“The ball is ovoid. What you might call football-shaped?”
“Got that! Why not round? I would think...”
“Don’t think! Just listen!”
He described the ball as to size and weight; basic fundamentals.
“I suspect, to answer your question, it is that shape because it’s easier to handle, certainly easier to throw. Better to control when kicked.”
“Ummm!” I said.
“You know what the field is like, I suppose. Fifty yards wide and a hundred yards long, with an end zone at each end. Here on Hepzibah we use those American dimensions. Some places use Canadian field sizes. Longer and, I think, narrower…”
“You haven’t mentioned the goal posts,” interrupted Boy from behind the bar.
“You want to do this, or let me do it my way?” Myron snapped, which hurt Boy’s sensitive werewolf feelings and he disappeared down the beer cellar, muttering to himself.
I suppose Myron knows his football, although he had sired only daughters whose idea of physical exercise was to play hide-and-seek in his huge lumberyard.
We finally gave up at 1 a.m. Saturday morning.
The Builder went home, aware his training had been less than successful, and Boy, emerging from the Bar Room pulling on his heavy fur coat and muffler, quietly whispered as he passed through the front door, “My advice, should you care for it, is don’t try to fake it, Host, my dear! Tell ’em you’re a babe in the bleachers and let them teach you the game.”
I watched as his slim form disappeared into the thick and swirling September snowstorm and realized he was right!
“More to this football business than I thought,” I muttered to my lovely wife as we snuggled down into the quilts that morning.
“What did you want to know? Ask me! I was Head Cheerleader at Witchery Prep and spent a lot of time listening to football players talk about their game!”
I stared at her in the darkness.
“Should have come to you first, Mary.”
“Huh?” she murmured sleepily.
Even successful owners and operators of highly popular drinking and dining establishments, and even Warlocks, hate to admit a witch-wife is in many ways possessed of far superior technical knowledge than he!