This is Part One of a magical western series.
No copyright infringement intended. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators or producers of any media franchise.
I first had occasion to meet the famous wand-fighter in the Town of Kanas as he was returning from an arduous mission in the Missouri Territory. I was at my ease in the parlor of the hotel in which I was staying when he came in. He sat in the chair next to me in order to share the fire.
Known as the ‘Fastest Wand in the West’ (an appellation he was quick to disabuse me of), Atticus Black was at once everything and nothing like what I’d expected.
For a wizard with such a fearsome reputation, I expected Black to be half giant, missing a part of his ear and to be scarred head to toe from hexes and curses. Some tales had him wearing a shaggy buffalo-hide vest with the shrunken heads of his vanquished foes hanging around his neck, in others the necklace was made of broken wands.
In reality he was no monster of a wizard, standing not a hair above average. Black moved with an easy, almost graceful gait, narrow face handsome with creases at the corner of his eyes and mouth from frequent smiles; though his complexion was unusually fair for one who spent his entire life upon the range. It was only in his eyes that you could see the tough lawwizard peek out. In those sun-bleached blue eyes were a keen watchfulness and the cunning of a serpent.
His black handlebar mustache was immaculately waxed and had a few streaks of silver, though his wavy, shoulder-length hair showed none.
The wand, like the man, was extraordinary. Strand of thoroughbred mane core, the first nine inches were unadorned Pennsylvania cherry, burnished black with a slight taper to the concave tip in order to facilitate a quick draw. The six-and-one-half inch handle was inlaid with mother-of-pearl and silver filigree that depicted a famous battle scene. A silver snake twisted around the handle, its hooded head, tiny citrine eyes twinkling fiercely, hovered over the brass butt-plate that held the inscription of the wand maker, Olivia P. Colt, No. 3 of 10.
The decorations were no mere vanity, but part of a permanent charm so that no-mag would see a Colt Walker Revolver and not a wand.
Unlike European wizards, Black carried a second wand, 19 and one quarter inches of walnut with brass back-strap with a rainbow crow feather core. This wand he kept in a sheath in his saddle with a charm that produced the appearance of a Colt Second Ring Lever Rifle.
The rest of his rig was nearly as distinctive, though not outlandishly so by frontier standards. Black dressed from head to toe in black, an eminently practical color in the hard sun of the west, but charmed so that dust did not cling to him as it might otherwise. The black galón hat he wore was circled by a band inset with Spanish silver reals and made from turquoise beads. His black duster, I learned, had dozens of internal pockets stowing any number of items he might need at a moment’s notice. Under this, depending on the weather, he wore a black coat, and plain black rough-spun shirt. His neck scarf at first appeared to be plain black silk, but upon closer inspection, had the ever-shifting pattern of a mane in flight. His trousers were black, as were his boots. No spurs.
I offered him a cigar to go with his coffee, which he accepted with good grace, and we made our acquaintances.
“Of course I have heard of Atticus Black. What witch or wizard hasn’t?”
Black gave a humble nod and said, “I wouldn’t believe most of what you’ve heard. What of yourself? What business are you in?”
“I am a writer,” said I.
“How novel,” said he drily.
“I believe people would be most interested in hearing about your life and exploits—the truth about life on the frontier. I have no mean readership, and while I could not guarantee it, I believe that you could stand to receive handsome proceeds from the sales… not saying that you need them,” I added quickly, hoping I hadn’t laid it on too heavy.
Black studied the glowing end of his cigar while he thought. The silence stretched for so long, I began to think I had offended him with my offer. He took a puff and blew a prancing pony through a smoke ring. “I suppose there might be a tale or two worth interest.”
I took out my quill and several rolls of parchment in anticipation.
“As a matter of fact,” he said, the corner of his mouth twitching up as he noted my preparations, “the matter from which I am just now returning may be of some interest…”
The following is the story he told.