2.1 A Fist Full Of Warlocks: The Wild Wild West

McAnally’s Pubcast – A Dresden Files Podcast

This episode we discuss the short story A Fist Full of Warlocks, which has very little to do with Dresden and a whole lot to do with his Universe.

A Fist Full of Warlocks Summary:

Warden Anastasia Luccio is making her way through the wild west.

It seems she has made her way to Kansas in search of a wayward warlock, and is making the trek in style. To the outside observer, Luccio is riding a magnificent all-white steed, seventeen hands tall and more than up to the task of ferrying her around the American landscape. To those in the know, she is actually riding atop an immortal fey-beast known as a näcken, dubbed Karl.

Luccio has pressed him into service by outwitting the beast at his own deadly game, and now he is bound to serve her for the duration of her mission here.

Their final destination is none other than the famed Dodge City.

Being a bad sort of dude, Warden Luccio can count on her bounty being holed up in a bad part of town. Luccio heads for the wrong side of the tracks (literally in this instance) and stops at the first sizable building she comes across – a brothel and bathhouse.

After a job offer, a bath, and directions to the local dens of iniquity, Anastasia heads off in search of her quarry.

Apparently “third time’s a charm” holds just as true for wizard cops as the rest of us, and Luccio is fairly certain she’s found her target at the Long Branch Dance Hall and Saloon. She enters a fairly typical old west bar and is almost immediately stopped by a tall, moustachioed deputy keeping tabs on the door, and is asked to surrender her firearms in accordance with public ordinance.

After a brief exchange concerning the rules, some mild flirting and a friendly wager, Luccio hands over her gun, keeps her warden’s blade and moves to the centre of the room to survey the surroundings for her prey. She dons some nifty, steampunk-esque wizard specs to better view the mystical energies in the saloon without having to resort to opening her full wizard Sight, and quickly zeroes in on four gentlemen playing cards in a little balcony on the upper level.

Realizing her villain has teamed up with three more dastardly dudes, Luccio decides she doesn’t really fancy her odds against all of them at once and figures she will retreat, observe and wait for reinforcements.

Her mind made up thusly, Anastasia turns to leave and collides with a handsome, middle-aged German fellow whose demeanour is at odds with his jovial appearance. He has a small pistol jammed into Luccio’s ribs. Excuse much; rude or anything? 

He instantly calls her out as a warden of the White Council and while Luccio initially tries to play dumb, the man ain’t buying it. He instructs her to come quietly since he harbours no compunction over killing her here and now, and nods an acknowledgment to his card-playing compatriots. 

Luccio tries to talk her way out by stating that she is only here for Alexander Page and all the others are free to go at this time. Her captor isn’t interested, though, and attempts to coerce Luccio’s compliance by way of a few more not-so-veiled threats. Luccio allows some of her natural anxiety to show through in the hopes of distracting him.

It world, and the deputy from the door gets the drop on the gun-wielding German sorcerer.

The three of them have a quick, quiet exchange, (wherein Luccio gets back some of her own by turning the ruthless rogue’s words back on himself – HA!), and when he gnashes his teeth and snarls and sputters demanding to know just who this up-start deputy thinks he is, we are formally introduced to Warden Luccio’s new ally.

“My name is Wyatt Earp…. And I think I’m the law.”  

Well damn if that don’t beat all!

The German warlock is taken to the local jail at the Marshal’s office, and Luccio tries to impress upon Earp that this arrest may be more complicated than he anticipates; however, Earp surprises her. Initially by divesting their guest not only of his regular, mundane weaponry, but also some subtler, magical items, and then by calmly asking if she’s referring to the fact that the prisoner is a sorcerer.

Earp identifies a charm taken from the German as coming from the Thule Society and guesses Luccio must be White Council.

She confirms that she’s a warden, and inquires as to how it is that he is so well-versed in such matters. Wyatt reveals himself to be a member of the Venatori Umbrorum, a secret society working against supernatural threats.

Anastasia considers it could be a ruse on Earp’s part, but discards that possibility as unlikely and decides to trust him.

The German is deposited in a warded cell, and Earp and Luccio get busy concocting a plan to defend themselves when the German’s friends inevitably show up to bust him out of prison.

During this period of planning, Luccio reveals the reason she is after Page (for gruesomely murdering the girl on whom he had an unrequited crush, along with her parents. Ugh. Toxic masculinity, anyone?), and Earp pitches some more woo, suggesting the possibility of him taking her out to dinner once this is all over, circumstances permitting.

The remaining thugs keep them waiting long into the night, one fella finally approaching not too long before dawn. They attempt to barter for their friend’s release with the generous offer of leaving town quickly if he is returned to them immediately, in lieu of their committing great bodily harm to Earp and Luccio if he is not. As an added bonus, they are even willing to solve the small problem that has brought Earp to Dodge City in the first place.

Unsurprisingly, Earp and Luccio decline this ridiculous offer, and the Briton spokesperson scampers back to his buddies.

Shortly after the conclusion of this brief discourse, Earp and Luccio hear a beating drum, the German sorcerer in the cell looks entirely too pleased with himself, and Anastasia suddenly realizes that the stakes are much higher than previously thought. 

About 15 minutes later, our 2 heroes are peeking out from their defensive position in the Marshal’s office at roughly 45 zombies making their slow, shambling way towards them.

Luccio figures it would only take a dozen or so to do them some real harm, so the odds aren’t ever in their favour, but at least the undead aren’t at full killing capacity for what they could be.

Anastasia informs Wyatt that they need to take out the drummer and then it won’t matter how many there are as they’ll all cease to be if that happens, and instructs him to aim for the head in the meantime.

Luccio takes a moment to confer mentally with Karl via a spell she set up ahead of time, and asks if he has located the German’s comrades. He confirms that he has and that they are on a rooftop a little ways over.  

With that the duo walk out to meet the amassing army of undead, and Earp starts calmly and efficiently putting bullets in zombies.

Anastasia takes out a few and then leaps up onto Karl’s back as he comes thundering into the fray, squashing a few constructs underfoot as he does. Luccio and her näcken steed go dashing off to the aforementioned rooftop and the magical beast runs her up to the top, leaping from street to balcony to roof. She finds Page seated in a magic circle, beating a steady rhythm on a drum, while the Briton who had tried to strike a deal with them and the other two unnamed warlocks guard him and turn to face Luccio as she arrives.

A brief battle ensues and Page takes a bullet to the arm causing him to drop a drumstick, but the Briton screams at him to keep drumming. Luccio dispatches one lackey with her gun, then engages the other one with her magical warden’s sword, while the Briton takes on Karl and manages to send the not-horse flying off the rooftop.

Luccio kills the 2nd anonymous thug and turns to face off with the Briton, who we now learn is named Grevane. Outnumbered and alone, Luccio hears zombies beginning to scale the outside of the building they’re on, and is so not cool with the idea. Even less so when it hits her that the power that Grevane is throwing around is strong and serious. Trained-in-the-White-Council-level serious.

Luccio’s fear is pushed out by her anger at the realization that this douchebag should know better and she levels a spell at the necromancer. The two trade a few magical blows and as the undead terrors start to close in, Luccio manages to evade Grevane and cross the boundary of the summoning circle, driving her blade into Page. Page gasps, unable to continue drumming, and the sound of re-unanimated bones hitting the street below echoes up around them.

Anastasia prepares to defend herself against Grevane again, but instead he merely tilts his head at her and drops backward off the roof.

Luccio rushes to look over the edge after him, but he is completely out of sight and gone already. Distracted by her disappearing prey, Luccio is not prepared for Page to come at her back, catching her off guard with a debilitating magical attack. As she struggles against the pain, she finds herself backed up to the edge of the roof with her own blade pushed up against her throat.

Page is about to deliver the final thrust when his head erupts in a gory blast and Luccio slowly turns to find Earp looking up from the street below and lowering his last remaining firearm.

The next morning we wrap things up with Anastasia sadly unable to keep her dinner date with Wyatt Earp, as she must get on the trail of the German warlock, now revealed to be a dude named Kemmler (who is on the Council’s serious shit-list), and his apprentice Grevane.

Luccio and Karl break with traditional Western tropes and ride off away from the sunrise, with Karl griping and moaning about Luccio finding Kemmler just to spite him, and Anastasia resigning herself to carrying out her extended duty in the dry, dusty American wild, wild west.

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