This story is a chapter in the ongoing adventures of the hapless Victorian wizard, Edwyn Le Fay. It is suggested that readers read these pother chapters, in this order:
The Dark House
The House On The Cliff
Mr Naith & Mr Naith
Searching For Gideon De Ville
The Evil Plans of Gideon De Ville
Edwyn Le Fay at the Trismegistus Club
The story will continue in An Enforced Vacation.
Edwyn Le Fay, a foolish young wizard, has continued his quest to gather together as many lost Magickal spells as he can. In his continuing adventures he has so far investigated the legendary Dark House where he almost did not get out alive; been suspected of stealing spellbooks which did not belong to him; and earned the enmity of an extremely powerful Black Magician (current location unknown).
So far Edwyn does not have a great deal to show for his endeavours. It is true that he has gained the legendary tome called the Black Book of the Earth, discovered hidden in a secret room of Lochindorb Castle. He had hoped to discover the Red Book of Appin, as well, but there had been no sign of that other tome. Perhaps some member of the Stewart clan had claimed that grimoire centuries ago. But such a great treasure as the Black Book of the Earth should have been enough for many wizards. It was supposed to contain the secrets of Atlantean Magick inside its pages, Magick which went back to prehistoric times.
Unfortunately, though, Edwyn had really been struggling to get anything out of the book. The book was made out of some sort of black metal, the words edged into its very thin metal pages. The pages were very thin, and Edwyn, in turning them, had already cut his fingers more than once, so that now he always wore gloves when examining the book. When he had spilled droplets of blood on those black metal pages, however, he had not had to wipe the blood off. The blood had been absorbed into the metal.
The worst thing, though, was that Edwyn could not understand a single word inscribed into the book. That was due to the fact that the pages had bee etched in a flowing, cursive script which he did not recognise. He suspected that the script might be Atlantean. But, while Edwyn knew a few words in Atlantean – ancient commands for spells – he had never, ever, seen a written form for this dead language. All of the Atlantean which he had seen had been in the Latin script.
The script was like nothing he had ever seen before. It was not some antecedent of the Latin or other scripts. Edwyn had spent a lot of time in the British Library, since returning from Scotland, reading up theories about the Ancient Atlanteans and their language. It seemed that – from one of the few authors who considered the subject in depth – there had been a Dark Ages following the sinking of Atlantis, when people forgot how to wrote, and writing had to be invented all over again.
The script was known from a few inscriptions, on items which allegedly had come from Atlantis. There was a piece of ivory carved into a bull; an ancient dagger, made out of the mysterious metal called orichalcum; and a golden ring. These rare inscriptions had been compared to what fragments of spoken Atlantean, in the form of Magick spells, had passed down the years, in an effort to reconstruct the language. But, even so, large gaps remained in knowledge of the language, because few inscriptions were known to have survived.
Only one person at the Trismegistus Club might have known anything about the inscriptions in the metal book which Edwyn possessed, and that was an elderly wizard by the name of George Seybold. He could not speak the language, but he was employed at the British Museum as an expert on ancient scripts: Sumerian, Enochian, Latin, Ancient Greek and others. Edwyn might have managed to have some of the inscriptions translated if he had taken the Black Book of the Earth to Seybold. But there was one thing holding Edwyn back.
That one thing was the fact that the Black Book of the Earth was rumoured to be a book of Black Magick, although the Atlanteans – as far as Edwyn knew – had made no such distinction concerning their sortilege. But if Edwyn revealed that he possessed such a book he could face having the book seized by the authorities. He might even be charged with having committed a crime. So, even though Edwyn would have liked to have told Hamish – his friend at the Trismegistus Club – that he had one of the most fabled books of Magick, circumstances forced him to remain quiet.
Edwyn, though, had not given up hope to understand the book, despite the fact that learning the languages of Magick had been one of his weak areas when he had been training at High Tor in Glastonbury.
Somebody out there had to know how to read Atlantean. Alexander Stewart, who had owned the Black Book of the Earth, must have been able to speak that ancient tongue, after all. Which proved that the language, and knowledge of it, must have survived the downfall of Atlantis.
For now, though, Edwyn was at the Trismegistus Club. It was his one and only social activity. Before becoming a member Edwyn had very much kept to himself, studying his books on Magick.
He did not really like the other wizards that much. They were, for the most part, decades older than he was. He was, in fact, the second youngest member of that gentleman’s club. The only other wizard younger than he was the Scottish wizard Hamish McCormack. Hamish had only got into the Trismegistus Club because his father was the great mage Cyprian McCormack.
Edwyn had a soda water on a rosewood table beside his chair. He had tried some of the alcohol available at the club, but not really found such things as whiskey to his taste. It was also quite expensive, and he saw no reason to waste his allowance on something which made him cough at the back of the throat.
As he sat there, drinking his soda, he realised that he could hear a conversation. Somebody was sitting in a chair directly behind him, and talking to somebody else. Edwyn Le Fay could only just hear the other voice.
He did not intend to eavesdrop. He did not consider himself to be a rude person. But he could not help himself.
“You should not consider such matters, Edward. You have a good job at the British Library, which you do not want to endanger. Some day you will retire, and perhaps become a member of this club, too.”
That was the faint voice. Edwyn did not recognise it. This Edward, though, had to be a guest, who had been signed in for the day by one of the members. Edwyn Le Fay understood that was possible, although it was not something which he would do. He did not have any friends to bring along to this club.
“But if the document which I discovered is correct, father, then Edward Lang was still alive after the date when he was supposed to have been executed for being a Black Magician.”
That was the other voice. It sounded younger and stronger than the first one. Where he was sat Edwyn Le Fay had no way of seeing who was doing the speaking. All that he could do was to sit back in the high-backed armchair and listen to what was being said.
“Edward Lang was a diabolist, and the world is better off without that sort, Edward. All that those sorts of people do is to give Magick a bad name.” The thin voice.
It was really the mention of Edward Lang which caught Edwyn Le Fay’s interest. Edward Lang, as far as Le Fay knew, had been a seventeenth century wizard, who was executed after being accused of trying to summon the devil, and various other crimes relating to Magick. All of his possessions, deemed as being tainted by Black Magick, had been put on a huge bonfire, and allegedly destroyed.
The thing was, though, that Edwyn Le Fay had wondered whether Lang had really let himself be killed. If he had been such a powerful wizard then why had he let them kill him? It seemed that this Edward, the guest, had possessed thoughts along similar lines.
“But what if he had survived?” the young voice, again. “What if he was not hung, but just some complex illusion took the place of Lang? He was supposed to have been an expert on Illusions – and on Shadow Magick, whatever that was.”
Shadow Magick had apparently been a school of Magick which had been invented by Edward Lang. It was not something whose secrets were passed on, but which had died with Lang. Modern thinking in Magick Theory was that Shadow Magick had been developed out of the school of Illusions.
“Edward, you might spend all of your life chasing such phantoms, and find nothing at all. Even if Lang did somehow survive his execution he would have died of old age two centuries ago. This is a pointless discussion.” the older, fainter voice.
“Not really, father.” the younger, stronger voice said. Ah, the guest who had been signed in was the son of the member, Edwyn Le Fay thought. That explained things. “If he did not die then his items did not die with him. I have heard rumours that the Ring of Shadows survived. If that survived, then their may be other items.”
“A ring might survive a bonfire, and be taken out of the ashes by some fool willing to meddle with the possessions of a Black Magician. It would have been better to leave such things alone.”
“But was he a Black Magician, father? Not everybody trusted wizards back then, despite White Magick being legal. Is it not possible that they misunderstood his use of Shadow Magick?”
“After so long no one will ever know. Yes, there were probably many people who were perfectly fine White Magicians who were killed in what the general public call the Witch Hunts, along with many Black Magicians. But Edward Lang is unlikely to have been one of them. It is for the best that nothing of his is discovered again.
“Anyway, Edward, let us not discuss such dark matters. I have had a letter from your brother, in the Union…”
“Yes, he wrote to me as well…”
The conversation moved on to family matters. Edwyn stopped actively eavesdropping. He was not the least bit interested in brothers who had moved to the United States of America. He was only interested in Magick. And they weren’t talking about that, any more.
Eventually Edwyn noticed that the two men had stopped talking. He heard them get up out of their chairs. Edwyn looked up as the two men who had been talking walked past him. He did not recognise Edward, the son who had been signed in. He was in his late thirties or possibly early forties (Edwyn was very bad at judging the age of people).
But Le Fay had seen the elder gentleman in the club in the past, a man by the name of Howe. He was in his late sixties or early seventies, and it was the first time that Le Fay had seen Howe actually talk to anybody, apart from to order a whiskey and soda. Howe usually just sat himself in one corner of the lounge with a copy of either the Daily Telegraph or the St James’s Chronicle. Edwyn had not even known that the man had a son.
The two men left the Trismegistus Club, and Edwyn Le Fay was left to ponder what he had overheard. He spent a long time thinking about such things, and probably for longer than was healthy for a young man like that.
Edwyn decided that Edward Howe must have been correct, and that Edward Lang had not actually been executed for diabolism, but had somehow managed to engineer his escape using Magick. Edwyn did not yet have any evidence to support such a theory. But Edwyn Le Fay wanted it to be true. He wanted it to be true because Edwyn felt that if Edward Lang had survived then his spellbooks, too, should have survived, and not ended up on some great bonfire.
Edwyn knew that, unlike the Book of Black Earth, he would have no trouble understanding the spells in Lang’s spellbooks. They would be written either in Latin or Enochian, two languages which Edwyn Le Fay could read. And they would certainly have spells which he did not know. Edwyn Le Fay wanted to know every single Magick spell under the sun.
Edwyn knocked back the last of his soda water, got up, and went home.
The next day Edwyn Le Fay went along to the British Library, intending to research Edward Lang, and any evidence for him being extant later than the date of his supposed execution. If this Edward Howe could find the information then Le Fay reasoned that he, too, should be able to uncover it, whatever it was.
After finding the Book of Black Earth Edwyn Le Fay felt that he could accomplish almost anything. He felt that it must be his destiny, now, to gather together all manner of secrets which had been lost.
Le Fay’s day at the British Library did not go well, however. He read up on Edward Lang, finding out the date of his birth, and the date when he was supposed to have been executed. He found a list of all of the various crimes which Lang had been accused of. It was quite a long list of crimes, including diabolism, consorting with demons, necromancy, and many more. It seemed that they had flung everything against Edward Lang. Le Fay could not help but feel some sympathy for Lang, despite the fact that, by all accounts, he had not been a nice fellow.
What Edwyn Le Fay could not discover, however, was any evidence that Edward Lang had survived his execution, and that some other person, or simulacrum, or illusion, had been hanged in his place. He could not find what Edward Howe had gone on about.
It was possible that the item was in the restricted section. But Edwyn Le Fay did not think that they would let him look at those books. Beside, he really did not want to let on that he was interested in such things. Despite Black Magick no longer being a capital crime, it was still an offence, with a maximum of life imprisonment in Bradley Tower. Le Fay had no desire to spend the rest of his life locked up in some place where it was physically impossible to cast a spell. He would rather die than lose his ability to use Magick.
It was for such reasons that he did not bother trying to contact Edward Howe.
Edwyn Le Fay went home, to his lodgings, and he tried to think what to do next. He had a spellbook which he couldn’t understand; and dark rumours that Edward Lang and his works might have survived the case in front of him. That possibility had been dangled in front of him like a carrot in front of a donkey.
Le Fay decided to leave the Book of Black Earth for now. Translating something like that might take him years. He would concentrate on trying to find the spellbooks of Edward Lang.
Where to start, though? That was the problem. Edwyn Le Fay had no idea as to where the spellbooks and other items might be now – especially if Edward Lang had not died as the history books had described.
He sat at his desk, and thought. He did not look out of his window once. He presumed that nobody was watching his house any more…
That was not the case, though. Somebody in a dark overcoat, its collar turned up, was keeping an eye on the lodgings where Edwyn Le Fay lived.
The next day Edwyn Le Fay went back to the British Library. He had decided to speak directly with this Edward Howe. But, after a long night of pondering, Edwyn Le Fay had come up with a plan which he hoped might keep him out of trouble, and not have the authorities think that he was getting a little too interested in Black Magick and the like.
Edwyn Le Fay had decided that he was going to tell the British Library that he was a writer, and that he intended to writer the biography of the infamous Black Magician Edward Lang. Hopefully if he told the people at the library that little white lie then he might have this Edward Howe come over and speak to him.
Edwyn had thought about risking speaking directly to Edward Howe, and he did not think that Edward Howe had got a look at him, when he had been at the Trismegistus Club. That meant that Edward Howe would not know that he was a wizard; and that he would not say anything to his father, Howe senior.
Edwyn explained that he was writing a biography of Edward Lang, and he asked to see any restricted material on the long dead wizard. The librarian who he was talking to gave Edwyn an odd look, as though Edwyn had asked him to murder his mother.
“You wish to see restricted material on some wizard called Edward Lang?” It sounded like the librarian had not heard of Lang. But that was not unusual, unless a person was interested in the history of Magick.
“Yes, that is correct.” Edwyn said. He now felt very nervous, and he wondered if he was making a mistake. He did not want to get into any trouble.
“I will have to see whether we have any material on such an individual.” the librarian said. “If we do have any material, I will bring it to you, but you will need to sign the book to say that you have accessed it. Please wait here, and be patient, as I might be some time.”
Edwyn Le Fay sat at the table, and waited. He had already decided that he would use a false identity, and that there was no way that he was going to give his real name. But he had not quite decided on what alias to use.
It was not the librarian who returned, however, but Edward Howe. Edwyn recognised him, instantly, from the Trismegistus Club. Edwyn really hoped that this librarian had not seen him, otherwise his plan might fall through. Not everybody was allowed to access the restricted books and manuscripts of the British Library.
Edward Howe walked over to stand at Le Fay’s table. Le Fay stood up and shook hands with the librarian. It seemed appropriate, somehow.
“I understand that you want material on the seventeenth century wizard Edward Lang.” Howe said, keeping his voice low so as not to disturb the other people in the place.
“That is correct. I am writing a biography of Lang, and I am interested in anything which you may have on his life.”
“You understand that he was executed as a Black Magician?” Howe asked.
“As were many innocent people during those terrible times, despite White Magick being legal.” Edwyn said. He had already rehearsed all of his words inside his head, before this conversation had begun. “I think that Edward Lang was unduly accused of Black Magick; and that will be one of the themes of my biography of him.”
“Ah, yes, it is something which I, myself, have considered. Well, nearly all that we have on Lang I expect that you have already seen. But there is one piece in the restricted section which you might find interesting. I will go and fetch it for you.”
Edwyn waited impatiently, wondering what the item might be. He knew that it could not be a grimoire, as those were not kept in the British Library. Could it be some letter by Lang? Or perhaps one of his books on Magick? He tapped his fingers on the table impatiently, until he drew the annoyed stares of others in the British Library.
It was not long before Howe returned, bearing a blue book, and some sort of pamphlet. how put the blue book open on the table in front of Le Fay.
“Please sign there.” Howe said, after writing down the name of the pamphlet. It was called On Shadows, and Thaumaturgie in relation to their Nature; by a Local Author. “I’ll come back when you have had time to study it, and you can sign to say that it is back in.”
Edwyn Le Fay signed, using the name John Thaddeus Silver. It was, perhaps, one of the least ridiculous names which he had considered using as an alias. He had even considered signing as Gideon De Ville. But in the end – sensibly, for once – he had decided not to put down his monicker as being a black Magician who was being sought by the police.
The pamphlet was quite thin, being no more than some thirty pages or so, hardbound. The publisher was not listed; neither was the author. But there was a date, claiming that the book had been printed in 1708.
Edwyn began reading the pamphlet. It was a treatise on a new form of Magick, involving the use of shadows. The author explained that he believed that there was a connection between all of the shadows in the world, and that a master of shadows might be able to step from one shadow to the next, even if there were miles between them. The pamphlet continued, saying how Shadow Magick could be used in a variety of ways, beyond those used by Illusions. You certainly could not step from one illusion to the next. As far as Le Fay knew the only way to travel in such a manner was via Portal Magick.
Edwyn finished the pamphlet, reading as quickly as he could. He had not even dreamed of using Magick in such a manner. He quickly scribbled down as many notes as he could, before Edward Howe returned. He feared that the booklet might be snatched away from under his nose.
He managed to get all of the pertinent ideas down, however, even if there was nowhere enough in the pamphlet to design some new spell. Wizards tended to keep such things to themselves, rather than publish them. Useful books on Magick were few and far between.
Eventually Howe returned to put the pamphlet on Shadow Magick back in the restricted section, along with other works on Magick and on sex, weird religions, and the like – all of the things which the authorities felt normal people should not be allowed to read. Edwyn signed the book, and passed the pamphlet to Edward Howe.
“I hope that you found it interesting.” Howe whispered.
“Yes, I did, but do you think that it was written by Lang?” Edwyn asked. “Shadow Magick was a rumour associated with Lang, and he was supposed to have crafted the Ring of Shadows. But the date in that book…”
“Is 1708. I know, it is a few years after when Lang was supposed to have been executed for Black Magick. But he was associated with Shadow Magick and the Ring of Shadows. Not proof in itself, I know. But that booklet was discovered in a house in Oxford earlier this century…”
“And Lang lived near Oxford. Yes, I see.” Le Fay said. It was tenuous, but he could see what Howe was driving at. And Edward Lang, if he had somehow avoided being hanged for Black Magick and consorting with demons, was hardly going to announce that he was alive by putting his name to a pamphlet which he had penned.
It suggested that Lang might have survived for a few years longer. But, unfortunately for Le Fay, it brought him no nearer to finding Lang’s spellbooks, if they still existed. That pamphlet on Shadow Magick, though… it was already giving Le Fay ideas. He suspected that it might be many years, though, before he could put those ideas into Magick which worked. Shadow Magick appeared to have branched off from Illusions, and Le Fay was not particularly good at anything but the most basic of them.
“Well, thank you.” Le Fay said, standing up.
“I look forward to reading your biography of Lang, Mr Silver.” Howe said.
“What? Oh, yes…” Le Fay had forgotten that he was using the name Silver. He left the library before he made some error.
Edwyn Le Fay went home. Things were progressing. Perhaps there was a chance of recovering Lang’s spellbooks, even after so much time. Le Fay knew that he would be able to understand those. And the tomes would be bound to have spells which he didn’t know in them, the sort of spells which you didn’t find at High Tor.
It would not be easy to find what had happened to those spellbooks, after so long. But if they were anywhere, it was most likely that they were in Oxford. As he walked home, he thought that would be a good place to begin his search. In all likelihood there might be letters in Oxford pertaining to Lang.
Edwyn Le Fay walked into the living room of his lodgings to discover detective Inspector Steel of Scotland Yard waiting for him. And that was when Le Fay’s world began to fall apart.