This is part of the ongoing adventures of Edwyn Le Fay/ They should be read in this order:
The Dark House
The House On The Cliff
Mr Naith and Mr Naith
Searching For Gideon De Ville
The Evil Plans of Gideon De Ville
Edwyn Le Fay At The Trismegistus Club
An Enforced Vacation
Edwyn Le Fay In Oxford
Back To London
Back To London
Edwyn Le Fay, the young and not very good wizard, has been away from London for some time, after earning the enmity of the powerful Black Magician Gideon De Ville. Le Fay has spent time in Paris; and then in Oxford, where Le Fay researched the seventeenth century wizard Edward Lang.
Edward Lang was, according to history, executed as a Black Magician. But Edwyn Le Fay has become convinced that Lang not only was not a Black Magician, but that he managed to avoid his supposed execution.
Every piece of evidence which Edwyn Le Fay has discovered suggested that Lang left Oxford shortly after his supposed execution, perhaps fearing that he would be recognised, and travelled down to London, to live out the last years of his life down there.
With his funds in Oxford running low, and the trail in Oxford pointing to the capital, Edwyn Le Fay has decided to return to his lodgings there, despite the fact that Gideon De Ville has not yet been tracked down by Detective Inspector Steel of Scotland Yard.
Edwyn Le Fay caught the train down from Oxford to Paddington. Despite what Steel had warned him, concerning Gideon De Ville, Le Fay was glad to be back in the capital.
Edwyn went straight back to his lodgings. He had already decided not to tell Steel that he was back in London. The fewer people who knew that he was back the better. Which meant no visits to the Trismegistus Club, either, at least for the moment.
Edwyn Le Fay checked his lodgings once he got back. Everything was exactly as he had left it. There was no indication that he had had any intruders while he had been away, first in Paris, and then in Oxford. That was a relief.
There were no letters for him, either, despite the weeks that he was away. But that was not unusual. Who would write to him? His father? He had not written any letter to him in the past few years, Edwyn did not see why his father might change his habits now.
Edwyn unpacked his trunk. He put the Archidoxis Magica with his other few research books on Magick. But he was not sure what to do with the Book of Black Earth. It was too heavy and cumbersome for him to carry around with him. But he did not want to leave it out, just in case he should come home and discover that the ancient grimoire had been stolen by some burglar.
In the end there was only one place where he could think of hiding it, and that was to pull back the carpet in one of the rooms, get some of the floorboards up, and put the metal tome in the space underneath. He put the floorboards back, and then the carpet on top. There! Nobody would ever think of searching there.
By the time that Edwyn Le Fay had completed that task it was late afternoon. Le Fay waited in his lodgings for night to fall. He had decided that he would go out, and have a look around Blackchapel, looking for houses which might date back to the time of Edward Lang. He felt that he would be safer after dark, as he would be less noticeable. He obviously had not heard any tales of what Blackchapel was supposed to be like. He would not have been going there after dark, by himself, if he had.
He took that equipment with him which he thought that he might need. This consisted, basically, of his mythometer and his ever-burning taper. He did not take a weapon with him. He did not even consider taking a weapon with him. Besides, he did not really have anything which might be described as a weapon, other than a less than perfectly sharp bread knife in the kitchen.
Oh, and he took a map of the streets, as he did not know the area well and had no desire to get lost.
Edwyn Le Fay began walking around one of the poorest areas of London. He walked down Flower and Dean Street, one of the poorest streets in this poor area. He walked down into Thrawl Street, where poor Mary Ann Nichols had lived, one of several victims of Jack the Ripper, who had struck so viciously some six years past – a series of murders which were still unsolved. Le Fay was glad that there was no fog that night. He would not have liked to have stumbled around in the fog.
Edwyn Le Fay walked down a street called Narrow Street. It deserved its name, being very narrow. It was also very dark and, as he had not brought a lantern, he was forced to get out his ever-burning taper and light that. Its ghostly green glow marked him out as a wizard for anybody watching him; and there were a few people who wondered what this wizard was doing, wandering around Blackchapel, after dark. He seemed to be asking for trouble.
Edwyn Le Fay stopped halfway down Narrow Street, where two houses, either side of a third, had been knocked down. Yes, of course, he thought, there had been plans to demolish the houses and widen the road. But the house which stood was the cursed house where Old Mother Hubbard and Bloody Mary had once lived. The house resisted all attempts to enter it, or even to do it any damage.
Edwyn shivered, and it was not the cold. He quickly moved away from the house. He was not keen, any more, of houses which were supposed to be cursed. The Dark House had been enough for him.
So much blood and murder in such a small area of London! There were rumours that Hubbard had killed children, as well as starving dogs. But there had never been any proof, had their, that she had been responsible for the children who had gone missing in the area.
It was when Edwyn left the other end of Narrow Street that he realised that he was being followed. It had to be somebody working for Gideon De Ville! That was Edwyn’s thought. He did not consider that somebody was about to perform a common or garden mugging on him.
Edwyn ducked into an alleyway and extinguished his ever-burning taper. His left hand went into his coat pocket, hoping that he had a sachet of sand in there. One area of Magick that Edwyn Le Fay had some facility in was Words of Command. He waited for the villain to enter the darkness of the alleyway, as surely he would.
Edwyn was not being brave at the moment. In fact, he was terrified. But, for once, his impulse to fight back at a cruel world had overcome his natural impulse to run shrieking into the night.
“Yer ain’t escapin’ me that easy.” a thuggish voice muttered. Edwyn could smell alcohol; and he could just about make out the silhouette of whoever it was that De Ville had sent to find him. “Give us all yer money. I got a knife ’ere and…”
Edwyn was not listening to the threats. All of his thoughts were getting the spell right.
The spell was effective. The thug fell asleep. Unfortunately, he was still standing up, and he hit the ground with a thump. He began to claw his way back to consciousness.
Edwyn, meanwhile, had pulled out his ever-burning taper and relit it. He saw the knife on the ground, and picked it up. Then he saw that the man on the ground had just recovered consciousness and was about to get back up.
Edwyn placed his foot on the man’s neck.
“WHERE IS GIDEON DE VILLE? WHERE IS HE?” Edwyn screamed down into the man’s face. Edwyn was holding the knife in one hand, and the taper in the other.
“Yer mad, you are.” said the thug who had been about to rob Edwyn. He twisted out of the way, his neck freed from Edwyn’s foot, and ran off into the night.
Edwyn gasped. For a second he couldn’t breathe, with a delayed panic reaction. He had used Magick against another person. That was First Grade Magickal Assault. Then Edwyn realised that it had been in self-defence, and recalled that you were allowed to use Magick in self-defence. He began to relax, and breathe normally once more.
Then he realised that he was holding a knife. Feeling a little bit odd, the adrenalin still racing, Edwyn moved on, continuing to explore the streets of this nasty little corner of London.
There was another odd street, this one on the edge of Blackchapel, and that was Timeless Alley. Edwyn had once been told something about Timeless Alley, back in High Tor. But, for the life of him, he could not recall what had been said.
He held his ever-burning taper up high as he stared at the street. Had he had any sense he would not be inspecting alleyways during the night. but his earlier encounter had made him feel brave. Or perhaps just foolish.
What struck Le Fay as being odd was the fact that the alley was spotless. There was no dirt in it. There were not even old newspapers or dustbins or anything like that in it.
Edwyn wandered down Timeless Alley, looking for possible secret doors. Maybe there was one leading to the house in which Lang had lived in. But, of course, he did not find anything at all. Whatever the secret of Timeless Alley it was still a mystery, as far as Edwyn was concerned.
Edwyn wandered around a few more streets in the area, looking for some house in which some wizard might have lived. But most of the houses were slums. Edwyn Le Fay could not believe that a wizard might have once lived in this section of London.
Edwyn was about to give up for the night and go home when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Had he not been a wizard he would not have noticed anything at all.
There was some sort of illusion there. When Edwyn looked straight at the houses, he saw two houses. But, out of the corner of his eyes, he had seen a third, narrow house, sandwiched between the other two houses. That was a powerful effect, probably some sort of illusion – and one which only a wizard could have created. If it was an illusion then the wizard had to still be alive, as all illusions faded after a wizard’s death, no matter how powerful they might be.
That disappointed Edwyn a little, as Edward Lang might have once lived in a house hidden like that. Edward Lang would certainly have known some Illusions, from what Edwyn had heard about him.
Edwyn moved closer, concentrating on seeing through the Illusion placed on the house. The place looked bizarre, being three storeys tall, rather then the two storeys of the houses next to it. The upper storey was of smog-stained yellow bricks.
The windows of the house were rhombus-shaped, and had metal bars built into them. A second chimney had been added to the side of the house, poking out of the brickwork of the top storey. That second chimney was at least twenty feet tall, twisting and spiralling up into the sky. The odd appearance of the house did not end there, as there were gargoyles attached to the brickwork. Even the front door was strange, being ovoid in shape.
On an impulse Edwyn decided to knock on the door of the house. Whoever lived there had to be involved in Magick in some way. Otherwise why hide away in a house which could not be seen by normal people? Perhaps the person might even know some legend about Edward Lang.
It did not occur to Edwyn that a person in such a house might hide away for some reason; that reason being that the person in the house being involved in semi-criminal activities.
The door opened after a minute or so. The man standing there had to be less than five feet tall. He was also old, his face heavily lined. Combined with the lack of height, the man’s appearance reminded Edwyn of some picture he had once seen of a gnome, in a book on fairy tales.
“What?” said the short, old man. “Who sent you? You’re not one of the regulars.”
The man had to be a wizard, Edwyn thought. The shorter man was indeed a wizard – and an artificer – by the name of Hickle. He was a wizard who made his money producing minor mystical items and potions for a very select few people, all of whom were of the criminal classes.
“I was looking for some information.” Edwyn Le Fay said. The way that the shorter man was glaring at him unnerved Le Fay, and he was now regretting the impulse to knock on the door of this strange abode.
“What? Information?” Hickle was immediately suspicious. When some wizard who you didn’t know and was not one of his regular customers came knocking on your door and asked for information you were very careful what you said.
“Yes, that is correct.” Edwyn said. “Perhaps I should explain?”
“Perhaps you should.”
“I have been researching the late seventeenth century wizard Edward Lang. I am not sure whether you have heard of him or not?”
“Yes, I’ve heard of him.” Hickle had heard of nearly every infamous English Black Magician from the past. He knew all about Edward Lang, who had been hung for attempting to summon some demon.
“I believe that Edward Lang wasn’t executed in 1706, as the history books tell us, but that he survived, and that he moved down from Oxford to London – to Blackchapel in fact. Well, I decided to have a walk around Blackchapel, and I happened to notice your house. In fact, I only just managed to notice it; I almost walked right past it.
“The thing is, Edward Lang might well have tried to hide his house in the same way that you have hidden yours. I wondered whether, as a wizard living in Blackchapel, you might have heard of some legend of a wizard living here in the early eighteenth century, perhaps some mage who did not wish to be identified.
“So, sir, are you able to assist me in this manner?”
“What’s your name?” Hickle asked, suddenly. “I like to know who I’m dealing with.”
“Edwyn Le Fay.” Edwyn said, before he could stop himself. He wished that he had said John Thaddeus Silver. But it was too late now. The words could not be taken back. Oh, well, he supposed that this wizard would not report him to the authorities for being interested in a supposed Black Magician.
There was no chance of that happening, anyway, as Hickle most definitely tried to avoid the authorities.
“Yes, Edwyn Le Fay, I may be able to help you. I do not possess the information myself, but I know some people who may have access to it. It will cost you, however, Mr Le Fay, as such precious information does not come cheap. I will require ten pounds from you.”
“Ten pounds!” That was a lot of money. You could hire a house maid for a year for ten pounds, as long as you didn’t mind not having a very experienced one.
“Yes, that is the price.” Hickle said, rubbing his old, liver-spotted hands. “If you want the information, that is how much it will cost you.”
He glared up at Edwyn Le Fay. But he could see that the young wizard was hooked, and would pay up.
Edwyn Le Fay thought only for a second or two. In another day’s time he would be able to draw on his next monies from his father. Ten pounds would financially wipe him out, and leave him no money apart from some small change for the next month or so. But Edwyn had to know where Edward Lang had lived.
“Very well. Ten pounds, then.” Edwyn said.
“Come back in three days time, the same time of the evening, and I will have the information which you seek.” Hickle said. “Don’t forget to bring the money.”
“No, no, I won’t forget.” Edwyn Le Fay said. He stood there, on the doorstep, staring down at Hickle. He was not sure what to do next.
“Go home.” Hickle said, slamming his oval front door in the man’s face. Edwyn Le Fay went home.
Edwyn Le Fay might have been concerned if he saw the activities of Hickle over those three days. The old wizard went and visited a couple of villains of the worst kind, the sort who were even disowned by their own mothers. They were not the sort of people who a person might imagine knew anything about the affairs of wizards, especially one who had lived almost two hundred years ago.
Those three days passed slowly for Edwyn Le Fay. All that he did was to draw ten pounds out of his bank, leaving less than a pound inside. He had less than a pound in his lodgings; that pound would have to last him for the next month, until he received some more money from his father. Without George Le Fay Edwyn would have starved years ago. But the idea of sullying his hands with gainful employment still never entered the mind of this wizard. Having a job would mean less time which he would be able to devote to his Magick – and that would never do.
His Magick was what he did, to try to pass the time during those three days. During the short period that Edwyn had possessed the grimoires which had belonged to the Naith twins, Edwyn had seen a spell in the books where a wizard could see in almost total darkness. He had tried casting the spell once, but failed miserably. As he had nothing else to do – and as he could not afford to go out – Edwyn Le Fay spent those three days trying to get that spell to work.
He tried doing the spell until he was exhausted. Even failing at Magick can be tiring for a wizard. On the first two days nothing happened. Perhaps he was simply not good enough, or did not have a deep enough understanding of Magick.
On the third day, the day that he was to see the strange, short wizard of Blackchapel Edwyn slept in late, not bothering to get up until almost midday. He spent most of the day re-reading what books on Magick he possessed. But, just before he left for Blackchapel, he gave that spell one last try. And it worked – Edwyn found that he could see normally with his light turned off, even though the sun had just set. It was as though what light was coming in was magnified to allow him to see. He noticed that the colours were rather muted, though, which he had not expected. But what did it matter if the spell put the world in black and white? He had learned how to cast a new spell!
It put Edwyn in a very good mood, as he left the house for his meeting with Hickle.
Despite knowing precisely where Hickle’s house was Edwyn Le Fay still had problems in actually seeing it. It was only when he got close that he could perceive the place. From a distance – even from just the other side of the road – the illusion was perfect.
Edwyn knocked on the oval door. The door was opened almost immediately, as though Hickle had been waiting for him to arrive. The shorter man did not give Edwyn time to speak.
“This is the address of where Edward Lang used to live.” Hickle said, handing over a folded piece of paper. “Now give me the money.”
Edwyn Le Fay handed over the ten pounds; rather reluctantly, it must be said, as it was an awful lot of money. But he had to know.
“Goodbye.” Hickle said, slamming shut the front door, leaving Edwyn Le Fay alone on the streets of Blackchapel, clutching a folded piece of paper…