This is part of the ongoing saga of Edwyn Le Fay.
The stories 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
The House Of Edward Lang
The Captive Edwyn Le Fay
The Other Lair Of Gideon De Ville
The Human Infernal Device
De Ville’s Master Plan
De Ville’s Master Plan
Le Fay felt over the world. He had forgotten that he was in the Edward Lang house because he was hiding out from his enemies.
He felt as though he had power. He wanted to use that before it faded. He wanted to see if he could summon up a shadow door himself, like the one which he had walked through. But that had been one left by the great Edward Lang. Le Fay had to know that he could do one for himself.
All shadows are connected. Those words echoed in his mind. Could he actually travel all over London by the shadows? There were shadows in the cellar. But what about elsewhere? Le Fay did not even know if it was morning or night, at the moment.
Le Fay ran up the cellar steps. He opened the cellar door, only far enough to see that the house was in darkness. Good, that meant that it was just gone ten o’clock at night. There would be plenty of shadows in the world outside. He went back down into the cellar.
He was excited. He was about to test powerful Magick. It was the most powerful Magick which he knew. He concentrated, trying to get the words right; and the worlds connected in his mind.
And then he was back in the shadow world. He already had a location in his mind, just to make sure that he had got this new form of transformation right. If he could move easily through shadows perhaps he might never again need to hail a hansom cab!
Le Fay had more than one location in mind, in fact. He wanted to visit places all over London, just to see if he could get there. He was like a child with a new toy. He wanted to keep playing.
He appeared in the larder back at his lodgings. That place never saw the light of day. It was always dark in the larder, as Le Fay well knew. It was darker than usual, as it was dark outside, with very little light filtering into that little room.
That meant that he should always be able to return back to his lodgings – where he still had the Book of Black Earth hidden under the floorboards, of course. He could get back to his home, even if the place was no longer all that safe. But Gideon de Ville was now no longer the only person who could seemingly disappear into thin air, even if the method of Le Fay’s disappearance was entirely different to that used by Gideon De Ville.
Le Fay hardly paused for breath before he was off again. He wanted to go to all of the places he found interesting, just to know that he could get there.
He appeared in shadows at Ludgate, not far from St Saul’s Cathedral. He stared out of the shadow of a building at the Ludgate House. That was one house which he knew to be cursed. Every wizard in London worth their salt knew about the Ludgate House, how it had belonged to the Black Magician Absalom Devayne, and how anybody entering the house within a hundred years of his death would be struck dead. That curse still had a few years left to run.
Le Fay then travelled to a shady alleyway diagonally opposite the Trismegistus Club, of which he was a member. It had been the site of perhaps his best actions to date, when he had saved the gentleman’s club from being blown up by Gideon De Ville, earning him the undying hatred of that Black Magician but, in the process, also earning De Ville membership of that exclusive club. There were many wizards who never managed to get into the Trismegistus Club. But Le Fay had managed it while still in his twenties. Ah, there was Fred, one of the doormen, pacing up and down, and blowing on his hands to keep them warm, and doubtlessly waiting for the club to close for the evening.
Le Fay conjured yet another door into the realm of shadows. He went to Highgate Cemetery, where a couple of famous wizards were buried: Richard Kobold, a master of oaths and geases (and father of the current Magician Royal); and the great John Mandrake, who had been Magician Royal for some thirty years, and perhaps the greatest wizard to hold that post since the time of Doctor John Dee. Le Fay had been to look at Mandrake’s grave a couple of times in the past, wondering if he would ever achieve such greatness.
There were other people buried in Highgate Cemetery, such as Karl Marx. But Le Fay was not interested in their graves. They were not wizards.
He stepped out of a shadow into Highgate Cemetery. He was in the shadow of some mausoleum. And then Le Fay shrank back against the stone door because, in the distance, he could see none other than Gideon De Ville and his pet gorilla, Julius.
Luckily for Le Fay he had come out of the shadow world to the rear of De Ville. But he could just as easily have come out somewhere else – such as right in front of the Black Magician. Le Fay realised just how lucky he had been. But what on earth was De Ville doing in Highgate Cemetery? Le Fay did not think that De Ville was the sort of person who would bother to visit the graves of dead relatives. Besides, Le Fay thought that De Ville had come from one of the Channel Islands. He was unlikely to have any relatives buried here.
Le Fay did not realise that he had stepped through, from the shadows, just after the completion of some great, Necromantic spell. Yet this was not one whose effect was immediately noticeable.
Then Le Fay saw one of the doors to a mausoleum tremble, as though something was trying to open it. But there was nobody standing outside of the mausoleum. With a shock Edwyn Le Fay realised that the door had inched open because something on the inside was trying to get out.
Gideon De Ville had spotted the door open a crack, as well.
“Julius!” De Ville shouted. “Open that door! We do not want to keep our friend waiting.”
The gorilla shambled over to the door to the mausoleum. Le Fay got the distinct impression that the gorilla was very reluctant to approach the mausoleum. But he obeyed De Ville nevertheless. The gorilla pushed the door open, and then ran back to stand behind De Ville.
Something staggered out of the mausoleum. It was something which had no right to still be moving, as it was clear, from the state of the body, that it had died years ago. It was a skeleton, but one still wearing its funerary cerements, and with desiccated skin still clinging to its bones.
This was Black Magick! Le Fay knew, now, that De Ville had committed Necromancy, to animate this skeletal figure. For a second Le Fay thought that De Ville had only animated the single corpse. But then he saw what else was going on.
He saw a single skeletal finger push through the ground, from one of the graves close to De Ville. The finger moved around, trying to weakly push the soil out of the way. Then Le Fay saw more bony fingers poking through, from other graves, in a great circle around De Ville.
Suddenly Le Fay had an inkling of what was going on. Gideon De Ville had not animated a single skeleton, but a great number of the dead and buried of Highgate Cemetery. That was why he had come to the cemetery – so that he could animate a great number of these dead things at a single time.
As though to prove Le Fay correct, just at that moment, Gideon De Ville began shouting.
“I have an army of the dead!” the Black Magician shouted. Perhaps he should have waited for his army of the dead to pull itself out of the ground, first. But De Ville could not help himself. He could see victory in his grasp.
“I have an army of the dead. With them London will be mine! No one will be able to stand against me, because you cannot kill that which is already dead. I will become ruler of this land!”
Le Fay, from where he stood hidden by shadows, stared at what was going on in the cemetery. So this was Gideon De Ville’s master plan – to build himself an army of the dead. With such a force who could resist him? Who wanted to fight against dead things?
Not Le Fay. He was not going to step out of the darkness, and let De Ville see him. He would probably be dead in seconds if he tried to take on De Ville and his undead army by himself. He needed help – and he knew who owed him.
Le Fay conjured up another shadow door, and he stepped back into the realm of shadows. He left Highgate Cemetery, as he drifted across the world of shadows. He was no longer in the cemetery. He could tell that, as the shadows around him were those of houses.
Le Fay knew where he wanted to go, a place where he had been before. But were there any shadows in that room? Le Fay recalled the light, and the wooden desk and, yes, the shadows under the desk. There were shadows there.
Detective Inspector Steel was sitting at his desk, doing what paperwork he could find. he should have been out looking for De Ville. But how could you catch somebody who could disappear into thin air, even if you could find him?
Steel had intended to put a bullet between the eyes of De Ville. But, the last time that De Ville had been seen, the old man had got away scot free. Wherever De Ville was now hiding, Steel suspected that it was not in London. For all that Steel knew De Ville might, by now, be on the other side of the world.
Yes, perhaps he had gone down to the Australian colonies. Let the governor of somewhere like Queensland worry about De Ville, instead. It was no longer Steel’s problem.
Steel looked up to see writing on his wall. Well, Steel though of it as writing, even though the letters were composed of nothing more substantial than shadow. Steel did not know that Le Fay had stood in the shadow world, and opened a window into the real world, so that he could create a message (he had tried shouting at Steel, from the world of shadows, but nothing had happened. Hence the shadow message).
De Ville bringing up the dead at Highgate Cemetery. That was what the message said. Le Fay concentrated, keeping the message on the wall until he was sure that Steel had read it. When Steel got up out of his chair and ran out of the room Le Fay guessed that Steel had got the message.
Le Fay let the message fade away to nothingness. Steel was on his way to Highgate Cemetery. He would deal with the dead things. Le Fay told himself that was what the police were for – dealing with dead things. There was no reason why Le Fay should involve himself any further in this matter.
Except that he knew that was not true. He had to know that De Ville was either dead, or in police custody. He had to know that he was safe. Which meant that he had to return to Highgate.
He was not going by shadow door, though. He did not want to appear right in front of De Ville or his small army of the undead.
Le Fay left the shadow world back in his own house. He knew that well, and knew that there would not be anybody in there – not now that Long Larry and the other thug had been blown up.
Le Fay stopped only to pick up a carving knife for a weapon, before hurrying down onto the street. With nearly the last of his money he took a hansom cab to Highgate Cemetery…
By the time that Detective Inspector Steel arrived at Highgate Cemetery all of the dead things had just finished clambering up out of their graves. They stood, like soldiers in serried ranks, in front of Gideon De Ville.
As he was dealing with Gideon De Ville detective Inspector Steel had brought almost a dozen police officers with him. He had not completely understood the message which had appeared on his wall, however, and he had had his officers quickly grab spades and the like, thinking that De Ville was manually exhuming the dead. He had not expected to see the dead bodies almost standing to attention.
There was no sound from the corpses and the skeletons of the dead. They did not groan or grunt. They did not even try to form any words with their rotting mouths. They were dead things which had been animated, nothing more nor less.
There was no intelligence within the bones of their skulls. The little red lights which burned in the cavities of the eye sockets had nothing to do with sight, but were merely a mystical side effect of the necromantic spell.
Gideon De Ville stood in the centre of the graveyard, with Julius the gorilla behind him. Even Julius did not like these things which his master was using like some puppet master.
“Now I will have my final victory, with my army of the undead!” Gideon De Ville shouted, although he really had no need to shout, as the only person listening was a gorilla – and Julius was right behind De Ville.
De Ville did not care about that, though. He felt that this was a moment which called for shouting. He was on the verge of his greatest victory. Soon London would be his. If this was not a time for shouting – and, yes, cackling, as well – then he did not know what was.
“Hit them with your shovels! Charge!” somebody suddenly shouted. Gideon De Ville turned around to see Detective Inspector Steel leading a small force ho police officers towards him. De Ville, for a second, stared in shock, at his most hated enemy. How had Steel known what was going on? It should have been impossible?
Then De Ville told himself that it no longer mattered. Steel was too late. The spell had been enacted, and he had his undead force. De Ville commanded his undead warriors to attack. Now his victory would begin!
The skeletal warriors shambled forwards to attack the policemen, who were running in to meet them. But De Ville had forgotten one thing – bothering to equip these undead things with anything approaching weapons. Had he even given them something like swords then they might have been dangerous. But all that they had were their bony fingers, and with no muscle to back up their attacks – whereas these dozen men in blue were fighting with a fury inspired by abject terror. De Ville watched as the force which he had thought would conquer London was reduced to broken bones, as heavy spades and shovels were used like clubs, smashing down on the undead warriors.
A zombie or a skeleton might be a terrifying thing, something which no living person might want to face. But fear was really the only thing which they had on their side. They had not been granted mystical strength, only the ability to move their old limbs once more. But these were limbs lacking muscles or flesh, ones whose bones were damp and old and brittle. De Ville’s warriors were weaker than children. The fact that such undead warriors were so ineffective, in reality, was perhaps why Necromancers did not rule the world.
It was just then that Le Fay reached the graveyard again, running into the place. Once he saw how weak the skeletons were he joined in the battle, helping the police, kicking one of the skeletons in its shins and snapping the bones, taking it down to the ground, and then giving the still crawling skeleton a right good kicking. the sudden arrival of De Fay was not lost on Detective Inspector Steel. Steel felt that he should have guessed that Le Fay was somehow mixed up in all this.
In only a minute the battle was over, the dead things reduced to broken bones on the cold ground of Highgate Cemetery. Just as the last skeleton fell to the ground – just as Steel pulled out his revolver to train on De Ville – the wizard, seeing his force destroyed, decided to get out of there while he still could, using his Portal Magick to transfer himself and Julius far away.
As De Ville spirited himself away Le Fay began walking towards one of the open tombs.
“Damnation!” Detective Inspector Steel swore, as, once again, Gideon De Ville and Julius the gorilla disappeared into thin air. “I hate it when he does that.”
Steel lowered his revolver. There was no point in shooting into the air. De Ville was gone.
“Well, Le Fay, we might have stopped De Ville again, but once again he has escaped us. Lord knows where he has hidden himself away.”
As Steel spoke Le Fay stepped into the deep shadows of an open tomb, one of the ones out of which the undead had come.
“I don’t suppose that you have any idea where De Ville might have gone, do you, Le Fay? Le Fay?”
Steel turned to look why Le Fay had not answered. There was no sign of the wizard.
“Watson, where’s Le Fay?” Steel shouted.
“I think that he went into that tomb.” PC Watson shouted back.
“Well, get him out of there, man, I want to speak to him.” Under his breath Steel grumbled about wizards being strange. Who would just want to go into one of the tombs after what they had just been through?
“He’s not here.” PC Watson shouted back, after shining his lantern inside the tomb. “He must have gone, sir.”
Steel shook his head. The wizard must have run off, back to wherever he had been hiding of late.
“Right, boys.” Steel shouted. “I want all of the dead bits back in their graves and their tombs, and I want this done by morning. And all of you are to be sworn to secrecy on this – I don’t want any of you talking about this down some tavern. Nobody in London must ever know what went on here tonight.
“Come on, stop slacking, what do you think those spades are for?”