Abel Crochet, a warlock whose beloved witch-wife had poofed, was forced by the Martian Witches and Wizards Guild delegation to give up magic due to his terrible luck of destroying the things he tried to fix...like a whole planets' ecology. Even the great canals dried up!
The Planet Hepzibah was home to witches, warlocks, ghosts, goblins, demons, poltergeists, necromancers, banshees, nightwalkers, and...well, you get the idea.
Trying to start a new life on Hepzibah, Abel bought the closed down, broken down Heartburn Haven and Taco Take-away, and with no small amount of shenanigans from local workmen, unions, and bump-in-the-night creatures, turned it into a Bar and Grill attempting to serve the best food and drink on the planet.
The adventure begins as Abel attempts to make a profit...and actually stay alive. Two goals that may end up being mutually exclusive.
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.
Original fantasy! Don Callander writes fun fantasy books. They always mix original ideas with classical fantasy, and will keep you entertained from beginning to end. This one, Warlock's Bar and Grille, has an especially original twist to it that's hard to describe, but you'll recognize it when you read it. Enjoy!M. Fellie -- Amazon Reviews
Welcome to New Oslo
When I first saw 613 Cabbage Patch Lane in New Oslo on Hepzibah... an address now known to all witches, warlocks, ghosts, goblins, demons, poltergeists, necromancers, banshees, nightwalkers, and...well, you get the idea... I was not in a happy mood.
I was, in fact, both weighed down with sadness and damned mad! Feeling very much put upon. Fit to be tied!
But... what the hell!
There wasn’t much I could do about it.
Mary Mistral, my beloved witch-wife, had poofed! How an attractive, sensible, talented beldame like my sweet Mary could have... well, that, too, was part of my fury.
As her one-and-only, chosen-for-life, sworn forever warlock...well, I was really pissed! Without her, I was next to nothing. She had empowered me! No self-respecting four-leafed clover, no left-hind rabbits foot would bring good luck to a decommissioned warlock!
Make a simple, little wish on a star? Something any child could do seven times seven!
When I wished for it to stop raining? It stopped!
It stopped raining with a vengeance! Mars hasn’t seen a good rainstorm since, and we used to get real frog-stranglers over there! How d’you think all those dry canyons and endless deserts were formed?
Even the great canals dried up!
I wished on a chicken breastbone, one time...well, the cosmic destruction my wishing wrought set Vega Proxima’s evolution back fifty million years!
The Martian Witches & Wizards Guild sent ‘round a delegation. They were in a really surly mood.
“Forget magic! Forsake witchcraft!” they chanted, surrounding our humble forest cottage, brandishing freshly-sharpened holly stakes, black-iron daggers, and even a few crude crucifixes...talk about extreme measures!...and angrily shaking straw-and-clay dolls... most unflattering sculptures of me!... in my face.
“Begone! Vamoose! Desist! Depart! Never darken our steppes nor dirty our chimney-pots again! Never! Ever!”
I took their hint, shoved some clothes into a ditty-bag, carefully neglecting to include all those handy, dandy little amulets and magical thingies so dear to any warlock’s heart (but which refused to work, now) and hired on as a rigger on a stellar-windjammer headed for... anywhere at all.
Here I was standing in the middle of a muddy, smelly, garbage-cluttered, fetid, acrid, narrow street just above New Oslo’s sprawling, smoky, waterfront, peering through a light drizzle at a sagging wattle-and-daub structure that, according to this real estate ghoul, had been, by turns, an undertakers parlor, a bootleg aquavit still, a home for wayward nixies, a safe-house for on-the-lam serial assassins... and so on and so forth... for over three hundred years!
Most recently it’d been, the sales-ghoul informed me solemnly, a Heartburn Haven and Taco Take-away franchise. The first floor, at least. Sour memories of burnt grease, burned onions, and cloying-sweet elderberry cola mingled with the acrid aromas of Cabbage Patch Lane, wayward urine, scattered lumps of dog-do, body-perfumes of unwashed ha’penny-whores, and drunken sailors’ upchuck.
You can imagine! Or you might, if you’d ever been to New Oslo on Planet Hepzibah!
“A real fixer-upper!” the ghoul, whose name was Citronella Quaversound, announced with gusto.
“Roof needs fixing,” I hazarded glumly.
Sooty grey-yellow beams of Hepzibah’s primary, Solomon, streamed...oozed would be a much better word...through ragged holes in the rotting thatch.
“Your ad says there’re no rats, mice, nor vipers!” I grumbled to the ghoul.
“No self-respecting mouse would live in such a place!” it insisted brightly.
Ghouls are sexless, of course, so it was an “it.”
It went on, paying no attention to my surly comments.
“Good, solid, post-and-beam construction throughout, as you can see.”
I could see that. Walls three feet thick! God help the owner who wanted to add a door or build a wing!
A cozy Ladies Parlor, maybe?
“Deep, sweet-water well,” continued the sales-ghoul, floating over to a hole in the crumbling brick paving of the forecourt from which rose some of the most sickening stenches ever retched at.
“Not a thing wrong with the water. Clean out the trash a bit. Naughty little street arabs! Toss just about anything in an open well! Ha-ha-ha!”
If my nose and stinging eyes weren’t entirely mistaken, cleaning out the well would call for a squad of undertakers, four sextons, three beadles, and a trained team either of paleontologists or professional grave-robbers. Well had obviously been the favorite body depository for successful cut-purses, slit-gullets, and rip-bellies for a hundred or more years!
My ghoul-salesthing passed through the solid oak-wood front door, leaving me to wrestle it open on my own. It all but fell atop me when the two upper hinges ripped from the rotting door-jamb with a spine-racheting squeal.
“Nice, friendly, roomy front parlor! Notice the unique wall treatment? Primitive stream-of-conscience art!”
Generations of vandals had used the dirty plaster walls to scribble, mark, scratch, or carve their names, various dirty words in Norwegian and at least four other languages, a selection of anatomical sketches, and imaginative curses on favorite enemies.
“Ask me about banging Goody Two-heads,” read one memorial. “Double your pleasure!”
“Tried her,” claimed the inscription immediately beneath. “Goody were goody for us!”
The latter sentiment was signed with an almost unreadable scrawl that looked something like, “Leprous Leo.” Or maybe it was “Leapfrog Lou.”
Hard to tell.
In one dark corner in magnificently ornate, curlicued script a defacer had carefully and lovingly engraved, “Kilroy Shoulda Ben Hurl”
A band of oily grey smudge ran around the room at head-level. There were daubs and splotches of dried brown that I could swear were either ancient blood stains or dried tomato ketchup.
“Ah! The kitchen!” continued Citronella of Better Hutch & Dungeon, Inc. “Imagine the tasty viands once conjured-up here! Yummmm!”
Ghouls generally prefer their meat well-rotted, and heavily larded with live white maggots. I put a mental muzzle on my overactive imagination and held my breath until we’d passed through the kitchen, up a dingy, narrow, shattered stairway at the rear, just beyond an abattoir decorated with reddish tile.
The slaughter-house at least had the honest reek of blood, guts, brains, and bones.
“Need a little work on the flooring, here... ” the ghoul crooned happily, showing off the first room at the top of the stair. “Or not...depending on how you feel about the heat, smoke, and smells from the kitchen!”
“And the roof, again,” I objected. “Whole place needs a new roof. Slate would be better than thatch.”
“A matter of taste, I s’pose. Slates more expensive, but a very good investment.” Citronella agreed. “Here! Hey! You weirdoes clear off! This’s private property, not a charity flophouse!”
The gallows-wraiths we’d disturbed, doing whatever funereal wraiths do in broad daylight... well, in daytime, anyway... shrieked mournfully and flew off through one of the holes in the thatch.
“Hafta watch those bloody body-snatchers!” the ghoul sniffed disdainfully. “Fix the roof! That’ll stop ‘em from dropping in on you!”
By far the cleanest and soundest part of the ancient building was the detached four-stall stable out back, next to a tumble-down, three-hole privy. I say that advisedly, despite the skeleton of a large horse (?) laying where it had died in its stall. Even the rats stayed away from the stables; the food values having been consumed years since.
“Well! Anything else you’ll want to see?” Citronella asked, grinning broadly in the gloom. It was beginning to rain hard again and what little besmirched sunlight that once had managed to pierce the overcast had disappeared.
“Brochure says... something about a wine cellar?”
I swear the sales-shade turned six degrees paler grey and sucked in an unaccustomed breath of smog.
“Oh. Yes? The... wine cellar? Well...”
“I want to see the wine cellar!”
It led me back inside, through the kitchen, and down a flight of rickety stairs... if one could call a stone stairway ‘rickety.”
“Through there,” it said, pointing a long, bony finger to a low arch at the far end of the cellar. “Ah...if you don’t mind? Not the sorta place... I mean... I have this unreasoning fear of spirits! Silly of me, I know...but...”
“What can they do hasn’t already been done to me?” I muttered aloud, and I pulled open the heavy door and held my hand out for a light.
Of course, my power to call up dead-lights had passed on and out with Mary Mistral. I fumbled a sulfur match from my pocket and struck it against the door jamb. The stone was damp and slimy. The match-head crumbled away. I got out another match and snapped it alight with my thumbnail.
The reluctant flame revealed a vast underground chamber disappearing into the distance where match-light failed to penetrate. Rank after rank of wooden shelving, six high, marched off into oblivion.
A chill, dry wind, smelling strongly of alcohol, blew from beyond. Not at all unpleasant! The place was absolutely still. Not even rats dared to enter here. Lots of spiders, but no rats!
As far as the brief match-light let me see, the shelves were crowded with neat rows of grimy green and dusty amber bottles, each angled with their corks facing forward and down.
“Interesting!” I said aloud, and my voice echoed at least seven times before it faded to silence. “Look at this, then, Mr.... uh, Miss...Citronella!”
But when I turned I found that the ghoul had retreated to the foot of the stair.
“S-s-s-sorry!” it nattered nervously. “I... I... well, put it down to pure superstition. That horrible hole is absolutely crammed to the rafters with powerful spirits!”
I nodded my understanding, in case it was paying attention... which it wasn’t... and took a few minutes more to glance about the rest of cellar. It had a low roof, held up by ancient stone columns and wide, flat, stone arches. And a slate floor ankle-deep in fine dust.
Along one wall were stacked wooden chests, shipping crates, and cardboard boxes. Old furniture ranging from a lead-topped undertakers table...the kind with deep grooves and drains to drain off blood... to fancy cane-bottom chairs, sturdy and nicely-carved bedsteads, and those ornate boudoir tables with mirrors...broken long ago...the kind fancy ladies have in their bedrooms.
“What do they call those things?” I called to my guide.
“Vanities!” it moaned from half-way up the stairs. “Vanities! Vanities! All is vanities!”
I opened a dusty chest and found it stuffed, not with a moldering corpse as I half-expected, but clean white linens, napkins, table-cloths, and percale bed-sheets, in bundles, all neatly ironed and folded.
I climbed thoughtfully up the steps to the waiting real-estate ghoul. It followed me silently through the kitchen, the front room, to the front door, which was hanging now on a single hinge.
It was pelting cold rain outside.
“Well! My offer is ten thousand bucks, cash.”
“Asking thirty thousand,” Citronella whined, consulting a notebook withdrawn from a fold in its robe. “Our best offer, esteemed sir! Thirty thousand ducats, or no sale!”
“Fifteen thousand, in cash. Now. My top offer.”
It turned slowly to left and right, as if seeking support. But there was no one and no thing in the driving rain.
“Last and final offer. Fifteen thousand!” I snapped testily. “You’re wasting my time.”
“Ah...fifteen thou...if you guarantee our renovation crew the contract for remodeling!”
I thought this over. Most of the work I would and could do for myself. Constant supervision, of course. Fifteen thousand bucks was my upper limit. I considered offering eighteen...because I was beginning to have visions.
That wine cellar, alone, was worth three times my offer, sold by the drink in small glasses.
And I wasn’t afraid of spirits. Some of my best friends were bottled spirits!
“I’ll let your workmen do the work, as long as they do it well and under budget,” I conceded at last.
“Guaranteed!” the ghoul brightened at once, bobbing its swathed head eagerly.
“Signed in blood!” I added, grinning wickedly. “Your blood!”
“Done!” it sighed. “I shouldn’t do it at that price!”
“You’d better! Be happy you’ve gotten this ruin off your back!”
The sound of our voices disturbed a black some-thing-or-other sheltering from the rain under the front eaves of my new home. It flung itself away through the rain, shrieking “Nevermore! Nevermore!” as it flew.
“Let’s go back to my nice, dry office, then,” suggested Citronella, sounding pleased with itself. “I’ll send to fetch a lawyer...”
“You cousin can stay at home, out of the rain,:” I countered firmly. “I have my own notary!”
“Well...oh, well, right! Whatever you say! Ah? After we make this deal...”
“After we make a deal, you say?”
“I could use a hard-headed salesman in my office, Mr. Crochet! You wouldn’t be interested in selling real estate, would you?”
I laughed aloud.
Suddenly my widowers gloom and doom evaporated.
“I intend to run the best goddamn public house on Hepzibah! Right here! Come in when it’s open and I’ll give you half-off on all food and drink!”
“Never touch the awful, nasty stuff!” the ghoul shuddered.