Author’s note: before reading this story it is advised that people read, 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
The story will continue in Lochindorb Castle.
Edwyn Le Fay At The Trismegistus Club
Edwyn Le Fay was a member of the Trismegistus Club. This young and rather naïve wizard had become a member due to the fact that he had saved the club from destruction, the culmination of a series of adventures which Le Fay did not like to ponder too much, just in case thinking about them gave him nightmares.
Since leaving High Tor he had spent several years studying Magick, supported by a stipend from his father. In more recent times he had investigated a cursed house in Lancashire. He had tried to get his hands on the spellbooks of the old Kentish wizard Obadiah Monk, when that mage had passed away. He had failed to get his hands on the spellbooks, though – somebody else had got there first.
But that had not stopped Detective Inspector Steel of the police from accusing Edwyn of purloining those books. The policeman demanded that the wizard return the mystical tomes, or face the full force of the law.
Edwyn, feeling under pressure, had tried to do that. Thinking that a couple of tall, gaunt wizards known as the Naith twins had the books which had belonged to Obadiah Monk, he had employed a street urchin called Al to steal Monk’s spellbooks from the abode of the Naiths.
That plan would have been successful, if not for the fact that the Naith twins had been beaten to Monk’s spellbooks, as well. The spellbooks which the urchin stole from the Naith abode were the wizards’ own mystic tomes – rather than Monk’s – and Edwyn Le Fay had a few problems explaining things to the twins, when they kicked down his front door and marched inside, in search of their property.
Le Fay, after extricating himself from that minor problem, had returned to his search for the missing spellbooks. Le Fay learned that they had almost certainly been stolen by a wizard called Gideon De Ville, who legends had living under the streets of London.
By good luck – or perhaps bad – Le Fay managed to find the hidden lair of De Ville. He had overheard De Ville planning to blow up the Trismegistus Club; and, acting like a hero for once, Le Fay had somehow managed to save the Trismegistus Club from destruction.
It had left him a hero, and a full member of the Trismegistus Club. But it had also earned him the undying enmity of Gideon De Vile who – accompanied by his gorilla manservant – had vanished into thin air, just when the police had been closing in on him.
Edwyn Le Fay sat in one of the armchairs of the Trismegistus Club. He was a little bored. He had just refused the offer of a cigar, as he did not smoke. He had also refused a sherry as, apart from the occasional drop of wine, he did not drink, either. All that Edwyn was interested in was Magick.
Edwyn Le Fay had imagined that he would be in his element at the Trismegistus Club, surrounded by other wizards. Except that he found that the other wizards, almost to a man, did not want to talk about Magick. Most of them, in fact, did not want to engage in conversation at all, and seemed happiest to have their noses stuck in their newspapers.
Of those wizards who would enter into conversation what they wanted to talk about were those things which did not interest Edwyn in the least: the current state of the church; cricket; or what was going on in Prussia at that moment in time. He had no interest in the team which England would be sending on a cricketing tour of the Antipodes that autumn and winter, or whether somebody called Stoddart might be captaining that team or not.
There were a couple of wizards who visited the club who were willing to discuss Magick, however. One of them had some sort of position at the British Museum, and had actually used to be a teacher at High Tor in the past, although not while Le Fay had been there – the wizard had left that school the year before Le Fay had begun his mystical tuition.
That man’s name was George Aquarius Seybold. But he only very rarely turned up at the club, it seemed, as Edwyn Le Fay had only seen him once. Seybold’s main interest in Magick was in the languages used for Magick, and in Magickal symbols. That had been one area of Magick which Le Fay had not been very good at, at High Tor. Well, actually, it had been one of several where he had not excelled.
The other wizard who was happy to talk about Magick was a young Scottish wizard by the name of Hamish McCormack. It had been McCormack who had been the first of the wizards to climb down into the sewer when De Ville had placed the explosives.
McCormack was tall and lanky, and not very physically strong. Judging by his physicality, he was certainly no athlete. He had been educated in Edinburgh, rather than Glastonbury. His father had been a wizard, too, and a member of the Trismegistus Club. It was his father’s influence which had assured that his son had become a member. Nobody at the club would have dared blackball the son of such an important wizard as Cyprian McCormack.
Le Fay discovered that, while Hamish McCormack enjoyed talking about Magick, he rarely actually did any Magick himself, for some reason. By trade he was an engineer. But his Magick played no part in that. Magick and engineering did not really go together, due to the rather impermanent nature of most spells. You did not want a spell involved in keeping a bridge standing, in case – when the person who cast the spell died – the Magick should fade away.
“There must be hidden books of spells still waiting to be discovered.” Edwyn said to Hamish, one day. It was a theme which Edwyn was happy to return to over and over again. He had not yet bored Hamish to death with it.
“Aye.” Hamish replied. Hamish was not too sure what he made of Edwyn. Sometimes Edwyn seemed too interested in Magick. The English wizard did not seem to have any interests other than that – and, as the saying went, you could not live by Magick alone. Hamish wondered what Edwyn would have done for money if not supported by the largesse of his father.
“I mean, I have read up legends of wizards from the Dark Ages of wizards who could do all manner of things which we can’t do now.” Edwyn said. “What about princes who were turned into frogs, or princesses who were put to sleep for hundreds of years?”
“Oh, those are just fairy tales.” Hamish said.
“Yes, but my father says that there is no smoke without fire.” Edwyn said. “I am not alleging that it is possible to send somebody to sleep for hundreds of years. Of course not. The princess would die of old age. No, but it might be possible to put somebody into some sort of coma which lasted for years, perhaps the Magick keeping the person asleep without the onset of death.
“There were many tales of transformation, whether into frogs or werewolves or the like.”
“Aye, but those were illusions, nothing more.”
“Maybe, or maybe not.” Edwyn said, warming to his theme. “Transformation Magick is very weak – at least the spells which we know. But what if there were spells which could actually change a person’s physical form. Of course the weight would have to stay the same, and it could not simply disappear into thin air. But what if there was some way in which the physical form could be made mutable?”
Hamish shook his head.
“Ah, you sound like one of those fools who says that there is a monster in Glamis Castle, or says that Alexander Stewart the wizard hid the Book of Black Earth in Lochindorb Castle.”
“What?” Edwyn asked. He had heard that there was supposed to be some monster in Glamis Castle, some malformed prince who was hidden away from sight because his appearance was so gruesome. But he had not heard anything about this Alexander Stewart, or Lochindorb Castle.
“Well, there is a tale that, in Glamis Castle, there…”
“No, not that legend.” Edwyn interrupted. “I’ve heard about the tale of Glamis Castle, and how there is supposed to be a hidden room where it is kept. What is this that you said about Lochindorb Castle?”
So Hamish told Edwyn the legend of Alexander Stewart: how he was a powerful wizard, back in the fourteenth century, when Magick was illegal throughout the British Isles. There have been several people called Alexander Stewart, but this one was the brother of King Robert III of Scotland. This Alexander Stewart was supposed to have been born in 1343. When he was in his twenties he became the Lord of Badenoch, when his father became King Robert II of Scotland. It was around that time, according to Hamish, that Alexander Stewart really delved deeper into his Magick, studying what was now considered to be Black Magick, although all Magick was banned, back then, and the law had made no distinction between White and Black.
The castle, Hamish McCormack explained, was also known as the Wolf’s Lair. This was because there had been legends that Alexander Stewart had been able to take the form of a great, hungry wolf. He rose to become a lord of great importance, gaining the lands of the Urquhart family only a year after his father became the King of Scotland. Hamish could not recall exactly what year it was supposed to have been, but thought that it was some time in the 1370s.
This Alexander Stewart married some countess, one with a strange name. All this time Stewart was gathering a library of rare, occult books, hiding them somewhere away in his castle. Some years after that his brother became king of Scotland, and all looked rosy for Alexander Stewart.
But, not long after his brother had become king, things took a turn for the worse for this member of the Stewart family. His wife divorced him in the early 1390s, and there were rumours of unnatural practices, which might have referred to the possibility of Stewart using Magick.
It must have been around that period that Alexander Stewart obtained copies of the Book of Black Earth and the Red Book of Appin. He spent the rest of his life engaging in Magick, dying early in the fourteenth century. But nobody, after his death, ever found those two tomes which he was supposed to have owned.
“And that is the tale of Alexander Stewart and Lochindorb castle.” Hamish said. Well, it was the end of the tale as far as he was concerned. He only really knew that snippet about the fourteenth century Alexander Stewart, who had been rumoured to be a wizard. Hamish had no idea as to what had happened to the castle since then.
That did not matter to Edwyn Le Fay, though. All that he had heard was the Book of Black Earth and the Red Book of Appin, two of the most powerful mystical tomes of all time, if the legends were true.
The Book of Black Earth was supposed to be one of the oldest of all books of Magick. The original one was supposed to date back to prehistoric times, and contain some of the Magickal secrets of the ancient Atlantean Empire, back when Magick had been at its most powerful. But the spells in the tome were not just any spells, but ones which even the Atlanteans had feared as being too powerful. Oh, how Edwyn would have loved to have got his hands on something like that. It did not occur to him that the tome might be written in Atlantean, a language which had been lost, for the most part, with very few words surviving (and all those being incantations for spells).
Some people did not even believe that Atlantis had ever existed. But Edwyn believed. He thought that a lot of the oldest spells must have originated in Atlantis. Plato cannot have been wrong. There must have been some continent out beyond the Pillars of Hercules, in the middle of what was now the North Atlantic. Maybe some of the islands out there, like the Azores, were the mountaintops of that lost continent.
The Red Book of Appin was not as ancient as the Book of Black Earth. It was supposed to date back to medieval times, although Edwyn knew neither century nor year. The first part of the Red Book of Appin was not actually a spellbook, but had research information on Black Magick, including how to design cures for curses. The second part of the Red Book of Appin, though, was a spellbook, containing some spells for ridding a person of curses, as well as spells to summon demons and devils.
The Red Book of Appin was supposed to be written in the mystical language of Enochian, which Edwyn could read, to a certain extent – enough to learn most spells, anyway. He knew that if he actually got hold of the Red Book of Appin that he should be able to learn spells which few other wizards had ever known.
The thing which excited Edwyn about this legend of Alexander Stewart was that he had had a copy of the Red Book of Appin. At the moment, in 1894, there was not known to be a surviving copy of the Red Book of Appin. The last copy which had known to exist had been under lock and key in the British Library, one of its restricted books, which were generally not available for research. That book, though, had seemingly disappeared into thin air in 1869. There had been no sign of a theft; there had been no trace of Magick used to purloin the book. It had simply vanished without any explanation.
“So where is this Lochindorb Castle?” Edwyn asked, leaning forwards in his chair, his eyes gleaming.
“Badenoch, I think.” Hamish said.
“And where is that?”
Hamish shrugged. He didn’t know. Just because he came from Scotland didn’t mean that he was an expert on its geography. He had not really bothered to ever go any further north than Glasgow.
“I suppose that I can look it up.” Edwyn mused. He did not notice that Hamish was giving him an odd look. “You say that Alexander Stewart had those two books?”
“Well, aye, that is what the legends say.” Hamish said. “But those are just legends, mind. Maybe there is no Red Book of Appin, and it was just a tale.”
“Perhaps.” Edwyn said.
“It’s not like anybody would think that they could find those books, after all those years.”
Except that was exactly what Edwyn was thinking, at the moment. He entertained the idea that those two books must be hidden somewhere at Lochindorb castle, because Edwyn wanted them to be somewhere at Lochindorb Castle, just waiting for him to walk in there and claim them as his own.
The fact that he had missed out on the spellbooks of Obadiah Monk still rankled, in the mind of Edwyn Le Fay. He would not have been able to have kept those spellbooks, anyway. But he had not even got his hands on them, not even for an instant. He felt that, after risking his life to save the Trismegistus Club, that Fate owed him something. Well, something other than membership of that club, a thing which many wizards would have given their left arm for.
“No, no, of course not.” Edwyn said, eventually, feeling that some response was necessary. He changed the subject, surprising Hamish by asking questions about Hamish’s family, including his wizard father. But all that Edwyn was thinking about was rare and ancient grimoires.
Two days after hearing about the legend of Alexander Stewart and Lochindorb Castle Edwyn Le Fay was aboard a train headed for Scotland.