This is part of the adventures of Edwyn Le Fay. It is strongly suggested that you read the stories 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
The End Of De Ville
Return To The Dark House
Return To The Dark House
Gideon De Ville was no more. He was one less thing which Edwyn Le Fay would have to worry about. No more would that wizard seek to bring about ruination on his enemies, and those who he did not judge to be worthy. The Trismegistus Club was safe from being blown up.
There was one thing which Edwyn Le Fay had not defeated, though, and that was the Dark House in Lancashire. That had got the better of him, until now.
Edwyn Le Fay tried not to think about that place. He tried to put it out of his mind, and get on with his life. But the fact that the house had defeated him kept preying on his mind. The house had defeated him. It had scared him away. He felt as though the place was mocking him.
Exactly one year to the day since he had first gone inside the Dark House Edwyn Le Fay returned. He was a year older, and he was perhaps a little wiser (although that second statement was debatable).
This time he intended to stay in the house until dawn, from when it first began to get dark. He was not going to be defeated by darkness. But if there was some Magick going on in the house then Le Fay intended to understand and defeat it. He was not going to be defeated by a Curse from some long-dead wizard.
This time he had brought with him a carpet bag full of equipment. He had a canteen full of water and plenty of food: potted shrimp sandwiches (which he had made himself); half a roast chicken; a small tin of McDowell’s petticoat tails shortbread; a small amount of Cheddar cheese; a couple of bread rolls; a jar of Batty’s Nabob pickles; and two bottles of Bass East India Pale Ale. He was certainly not going to starve.
Also in the carpet bag was a sharp knife, of the sort carried by many an unshaven thug in Blackchapel; a revolver (as Le Fay had encountered people holding guns in the past, and anybody could pull a trigger); a new ever-burning taper (the sort which produced green light, rather than orange); and a few sachets of Sands of Morpheus. There was also an ordinary lantern, even though such a device had proved to be ineffective against the darkness a year ago. His old ever-burning taper had proved to be ineffective a year ago, as well. But Le Fay felt that he had a better understanding of Magick than before.
There was also a long tape measure, a pad of paper, and some pencils inside the carpet bag.
His precious mythometer was in the pocket of his coat. That was one item he would never simply chuck into some carpet bag.
Le Fay set the carpet bag down on the ground in front of the Dark House. He looked at the front door, which was closed. Then he looked at the windows either side of the front door. They were intact.
The thing was, though, the last time that Edwyn Le Fay had been to the Dark House, exactly a year ago, he had smashed the glass of one of the windows by throwing a wooden chair through it. He had somehow managed to clamber out of the window, convinced that there had been something in the house that was hunting him.
There was no sign of the broken chair, or of any broken glass from the window. Le Fay did not believe that somebody had come along and mended the window. The nearest village was a long walk away. And who would bother to come along and mend the window of a house which was reputed to be cursed. Yet the window was now intact.
Edwyn cast a minor spell, one which would only last a few minutes, and not tire him out. The spell produced a small red light, bobbing in the air. It was the same size as a candle flame, and produced about the same amount of light, reflecting off the glass of the window.
Edwyn got out his mythometer, and cast a spell of detection. The needle of the mythometer pointed towards the flame. Le Fay waited until that little fire blinked out. Then he cast a spell of hardening on the window, another weak spell which would only last briefly, the glass of a single pane of the window hardened to the toughness of stone. He cast a second spell of detection, again holding his mythometer up.
The needle of the mythometer should have pointed towards the active spell on the window. But the needle only slowly turned in a circle, searching for Magick which it could not find.
Le Fay smiled, and stopped concentrating on the minor spell of detection. He had cast four spells in as many minutes. But they had all been little better than cantrips, and he had not exhausted himself yet. No, he would be conserving his energies for the night which lay ahead.
He had discovered something very important, though, and that was that there was a powerful spell of obfuscation over the house and all of its contents. He had tried detecting Magick a year ago, but had not discovered anything. Now he knew why.
Edwyn Le Fay shook his head and smiled. Why had he not considered the possibility of some great spell of obfuscation a year ago? He must really have been naïve.
But now, though, Le Fay knew that there was something to hide. If this spell had been cast by the former owner of the place then it must have been made permanent, to outlast the wizard’s death. That meant that whoever the former owner had been then he had been a very powerful wizard, more powerful than Le Fay himself. Which, perhaps, should have dissuaded Le Fay from going into the Dark House. But Le Fay had come a long way in the past year, and he was not about to let some old house get the better of him. Even if it did have a curse upon it. He was determined to stay in the house the whole night through.
Le Fay tried the front door. It was time to test the powers of the house. The door opened, creaking just like it had a year ago. Le Fay had half expected the door to be locked, and for the house to attempt to refuse him access. But he had been allowed to enter the Dark House before. It had been leaving it which had been somewhat awkward.
Le Fay lit his ever-burning taper, using a match, this time, as he wanted not to get too tired too quickly. Its ghostly, ghastly light illuminated the hall which led from the door. The hall looked exactly the same as a year ago. There was no indication that anybody else had been inside the house in the interim. Edwyn doubted if anybody else had come into the house.
He stepped through the threshold, and checked the locks on the inside of the door. There was a single bolt at the top of the door, and a mortise lock, but with no sign of the key. A year ago, when Edwyn Le Fay had tried to escape, he had discovered that the door had been locked. Edwyn Le Fay had no doubt that, sometime during the night, the front door would again lock itself, trying to trap him inside the place. But he was prepared, this time, having read up on just about every curse which could be placed on such a house. Yet he still did not know, precisely, just what going on in this place. He could only make a few educated guesses. But he would only know, for sure, as the night progressed.
He began to search the house again, just like he had a year ago. But, this time, he was a little more methodical than before. With the secrets of the house having been hidden by Magick he knew that his own Magick almost certainly was not powerful enough to reveal them. So he would use simple intelligence and logic instead.
He did a map of the floor plan of the house as he went along. He measured each room on the ground floor that he went into, all the time watching the light from his ever-burning taper, knowing that, at some stage during the night, it would lessen as the darkness began to encroach.
Le Fay managed to measure the ground floor without any indication that the darkness in the house was increasing. But he had gone as quickly as he had could; and, as he recalled, it had been somewhat later when he had noticed that his light had begun to lessen. By Le Fay’s estimate he still had an hour or two before he needed to worry, if things were going to follow the same schedule as a year before.
His plan of the ground floor did not reveal any gap in the space between the rooms. If there was any secret place it would have to be inches in size, rather than feet. Le Fay thought that he was looking for something bigger than that.
He left the carpet bag at the bottom of the stairs. There was little point in carrying it all around the house. if he need something then he could always go back for it. He had already decided that when he would have his food, it would be downstairs, not far from the door out of the place.
Le Fay went upstairs, to the first floor of the Dark House. It was there where he thought that he might find some secrets. The stairs creaked, just like they had twelve months ago. But Le Fay found that rather reassuring, although he did not know why.
He found the stair which seemed to give a little under his weight. He tried lifting the tread up, in case there was some secret compartment beneath it. But it would not lift up. He put his whole weight on the tread, ready to jump backwards, in case it was some sort of a trap. But nothing happened. It was just an old, worn tread on an old set of stairs. There was nothing special about it.
As soon as he was upstairs Le Fay began to do a plan of that floor of the house, using his tape measure to check the dimensions of each room. He kept an eye on the light (or the lack of it). Was the radius of light from his taper beginning to lessen? Or was that just his imagination playing up? He could not be sure, one way or the other.
He quickly mapped out the first floor. And that was when he made his discovery – either one of the walls was eight feet thick, or there was some sort of secret chamber in the house. Naturally Le Fay believed the latter.
He checked the wall one side of this area, tapping the wall and looking for something which might be the release for a secret door. Le Fay was getting inside that area. There had to be old spellbooks in there, didn’t there? Some people dreamt of finding buried treasure, but Le Fay was not interested, really, in those sorts of riches (although he would not have said no). No, it was mystical knowledge which he wanted to hoard.
One side of what he presumed to be a secret room did not have any sort of secret door, as far as Le Fay could tell. Or, if it did, then it was beyond his ability to find. So Le Fay went into the room the other side, a room almost bare of furniture – and with no furniture close to that particular wall.
As Le Fay entered the room he glanced up at the light of his ever-burning taper. It did not seem to be going down as far down the hall as it should have. Was the darkness encroaching once more? This time, though, it was expected. Le Fay now had a few ideas of how he might combat it, once it got too bad, and he knew how long he had before it would become too dark to function. He has some time yet – easily enough to find his way into the secret room.
There was a lone sconce for holding a light on the wall of the room. Could it really be as simple as that? He had seen that sconce before, a year ago, but he had not pulled down on it. Had he really not bothered to test it? But pulling down on some sconce to reveal a secret door was so obvious. There were novels featuring that sort of thing. But perhaps not when the house had been built. That had been just after the English Civil War. Perhaps that had been a new idea, back then. Well, newish, anyway.
Le Fay reached up with the hand not holding the ever-burning taper and pulled down on the wall sconce. It was still, but it pulled down. Part of the wall opened outwards – had there been any furniture there, the n the wall would have hit it.
There was a small room beyond. But, standing just inside the threshold of the room, there was a pale white giant. The giant’s eyes opened, burning red. He raised his hands – bigger than any human hands could ever be – and went for Edwyn Le Fay.
Le Fay ran. He was still blessed with a healthy amount of cowardice, where danger was concerned, and everything told him that he was in a great deal of danger. You did not argue with something which stood almost nine feet tall.
Edwyn Le Fay ran out of the room, and along the upstairs hall. He was going to get out of the Dark House, and review the situation from outside.
It had to be some golem, made out of white clay. It must have been created by the wizard who had lived here as a guardian of whatever treasures lay in that secret room. That, and the darkness, would defeat any thieves who went into the house by night.
He had been right, a year ago, when he had thought that he had heard something else in the house. There had been something hunting him, after all.
Had Edwyn encountered that golem in complete darkness, then he would have been torn apart. Edwyn had no doubt that, whatever spells functioned in the Dark House, that the golem would be able to see through the darkness.
Edwyn pelted down the stairs, not bothering to avoid the stair which ad a little give. Of course nothing happened – there was no need for a trap when a house was protected by mystical darkness and a golem.
He grabbed the carpet bag and ran down the hall towards the front door. He grabbed the handle of the door and pulled. The door did not open.
Edwyn Le Fay looked up at the top of the door. The bolt was not across. So the door must have mystically locked itself.
Being ale to dispel Magick would not unlock the door. He needed either a key, or a spell to move the inside elements of the mortise lock. Le Fay had neither.
He glanced back down the hall. There was no sign of the white clay golem yet. At least it was slow moving. That meant that he still had time in which to get out of there, and to try to work out what he should do.
There was another door to the house, what Edwyn considered to be the ‘back’ door. Edwyn hurried along, keeping an eye out for the golem. It had not yet come down the stairs, however.
He made for the door at the back, and pulled on that, as well. But that was also locked. He tugged and tugged, but there was no way in which he could get it open. And there was no way that he was strong enough to knock it down.
The light from the ever-burning taper was definitely growing dim. The house did not want him in there. It was doing its best to quench the light. But, before coming to the house, Edwyn Le Fay had read up on Magickal darkness. He should be able to get rid of it by a powerful enough spell of dispelling. That was one area in which Edwyn did know a few spells.
He still had a little time. He cast the most powerful spell of dispelling which he knew. It should have got rid of the darkness. But nothing happened.
“Impossible.” Edwyn Le Fay muttered. But he knew that it was not, for he could now see the circle of light get a little less. The spell of darkness had to have been incredibly powerful.
Le Fay, though, was far from defeated. He had more weapons in his Magickal armoury than a year ago. He now knew some of the spells of Edward Lang – he had learned a fair amount of Shadow Magick. But the spell which he turned to, at the moment, was the one which he had learned from the spellbooks of the Naith twins: the spell to allow him to see normally in darkness, as long as he had some light, and the darkness was not total. That would improve his vision, at least for the moment, and give him time to get out of there.
He cast the spell, and he knew that it was working, for his vision became black and white once more. But the spell did not penetrate beyond the decreasing radius of the ever-burning tape. It did not penetrate the Magickal darkness.
Yet the spell had seen the mystic shadows left behind by Edward Lang. It should have allowed him to see. Something very strange was going on here.
He decided that he would worry about that when he got out of there. He went back towards the front of the house, intending to escape the way that he had a year ago, by throwing a chair through the window of the room next to the front door. he hurried along the passage leading to the front hall, and turned into that hall to find himself looking at the back of the golem.
“Eep!” Le Fay could not help making a sound, as he had almost run into the back of the golem. Had he not said anything perhaps he would have been fine. But that was enough for the golem to hear him. The huge clay golem slowly began to turn around towards him.
That was when Le Fay did something which was, perhaps, very stupid: rather than running back the way that he had come, and trying to smash a window in some other downstairs room, he ran up the stairs. But the stairs were there, and he reacted without thinking.
The golem slowly began to walk up the stairs, the wooden treads creaking under the weight of the monster.
Edwyn Le Fay ran along the first floor hall, until he found the stairs up to the second floor. He ran up those, as well, trying to put as much distance between him and the clay monster.
The darkness was a lot more powerful now. The ever-burning taper now only provided light in a fifteen foot radius, some half of what it normally did. Le Fay did not have all that long before he would be in darkness that was utter and complete – and there was no way that he could escape from a golem like that. He could not feel his way out of the place, or really use his sense of hearing to escape the thing.
Le Fay ran to the room furthest from the top of the stairs, to give himself as much time as possible. The room was one which looked like it had hardly ever been used. There was a mouldy carpet on the floor, a bedstead without a mattress, and a small wooden table beside the bed.
Le Fay tried the single window in the room. The window would not open, no matter how much he rattled it. He kept looking over his shoulder, at the door which Le Fay had closed behind him. Le Fay kept expecting the door to open and the monster to come through. But he had a little time.
Le Fay picked up the small table and threw it against the window, smashing one of the panes. Le Fay smashed enough glass so that he could climb out of the window and jump down to the ground below, if he needed to. But, from up here, staring out of a second floor window, the ground looked an awfully long way below him.
Le Fay glanced back towards the door. The door was still closed. Then he noticed that he could hardly see the door. Then the door was gone, inside the darkness that it seemed that nothing could penetrate or dispel.
Why couldn’t he see through the darkness? The spell which he had going should have been effective against even mystical darkness. Unless…. No, that was impossible, he told himself. It could not be an illusion affecting his mind, as all Illusions died with the person who cast them, no matter how powerful they were.
He disbelieved in the darkness. He told himself that it wasn’t there. It was either that or jump down onto the hard ground below. This was an act of desperation, more than anything else. But he disbelieved with all his might.
Suddenly the encroaching darkness was gone, as though it had never been there. And it hadn’t been, not really. It had only been an illusion of darkness. His lantern had not given out, a year ago, nor had his ever-burning taper. They had both functioned normally. But he simply had not been able to perceive that. He had seen an illusion of encroaching darkness, and believed it to be real. That had been why his spell of dispelling had not worked – he had been trying to dispel real Magickal darkness.
“He’s alive.” Le Fay whispered to himself. If the encroaching, utter darkness had been an illusion that meant that the person who had cast it was still alive. It was the only possibility. Somehow the wizard who had created the legend of the Dark House was still alive, even though he had to be well over a hundred years old.
Le Fay did not really have too much time to wonder about that, though, as he still had a golem to deal with. He tried to recall what he knew about golems. The fact was, though, that he knew very little. They had not really been covered at High Tor. Or, if they had been covered, then he had not been paying attention.
He knew that they were something to do with Jews. They had been used by Jewish rabbi-wizards to protect Jewish ghettoes. But Le Fay could not recall just how they had been created – or just how you got rid of them. Did they have some sort of Magickal amulet inside a chest cavity, animating them? Or was there some sort of Magick inscription on their foreheads? Le Fay could not recall which was which.
And then there was the matter that the person who had created the golem and the illusion of the darkness had to still be alive. But where could he be? Not in the house, surely, as Edwyn had searched the entire place.
Then, suddenly, Edwyn Le Fay glimpsed the truth. It seemed impossible. But it explained how a programmed illusion could still be functioning, after all this time. It explained the golem. It just about explained everything.
When Edwyn Le Fay had been at High Tor he had been told how wizards who died of natural causes or old age would know, in advance, of roughly when they were going to die. Of course, if some wizard was murdered, or killed in an accident, then he would not foresee that – it only applied to when his three score years and ten began to run out. The tutor said that all wizards who believed in White Magick would not try to avoid their deaths, and that no person could expect to live forever. Everybody had to die sometime, and that foreknowledge, at least, allowed good wizards to put their affairs in order before the end.
Le Fay and the other students had been warned that Black Magicians would do anything to stay alive. They would try to use their Magick to avoid death, whether by trying to absorb the life force of other people, or summoning up demons and devils to do bargains with, or going on impossible quests to discover such things as the Fountain of Youth. The students at High Tor had been told, in the strongest terms, that when their time came, they should resist any urges to do the same.
The wizard who had lived in the Dark House had created this golem out of white clay. Then, before his death, perhaps during the final days, he had somehow managed to transfer his life force or consciousness into the body of the golem. The wizard was still alive. It was he who had repaired the broken window, perhaps using Magick. It was he who kept the illusion of darkness going, perhaps to keep away thieves who might break into the house during the hours of darkness.
It was at such a point that most people, and even most wizards, would have tried to get out of there. But Edwyn Le Fay was not most people, and he was not most wizards. He suddenly saw that he had a wonderful opportunity to learn spells which few other people had ever learned. This wizard must know how to craft and animate a golem, something which Le Fay knew nothing about. He must also know how to transfer his life force out of a dying body, another spell which Le Fay did not know. Not know? He had not even guessed that such a spell might exist, until now. He had to learn that spell – not because Le Fay had any desire to duplicate what this wizard had done, but simply because it was mystical knowledge.
Le Fay, despite being a year older, and supposedly wiser, decided to go and greet the golem, and ask the wizard to teach him these rare spells.
Having made up his mind Le Fay walked out of the room, back along the passage, and down the stairs to the first floor. He saw the white clay golem at the far end of the hall. It must just have come up the stairs.
“Greetings!” Le Fay called out. Even as he spoke there was the sudden realisation, at the back of his mind, that perhaps this was an incredibly foolish thing to do. A wizard who became part of a golem was not, perhaps, the sanest person in the world. But what about a wizard who had been inside the lumbering body of a golem, alone in an otherwise empty house, for over a hundred years? How sane would such a wizard be?
“Greetings! I am Edwyn Le Fay. I am, like you, a wizard, and I wondered if, perhaps, I could be your student…”
Le Fay’s voice trailed off then, as the white golem raised one great fist. At first Le Fay had feared that the golem had been about to cast some terrible spell, but it had only been to shake its fist at Edwyn Le Fay. Then the golem spoke.
“Interloper.” It said. Its voice was the deepest voice which Le Fay had ever heard. But there was some hollow, supernatural quality to the voice, something which made Le Fay’s hair stand on end (as though he was not already scared enough).
“Interloper! Thief! You will die!”
The golem then began lumbering towards Le Fay, moving surprisingly rapidly for something so big. Le Fay backed off until he could feel the wall behind him.
Wall? No, it was a window ledge which he could feel. He was stood in front of a window, while a golem charged down the first floor hall towards him.
Right at the last moment, as the golem lunged for him, both huge, white hands reaching for him, Le Fay dodged out of the way. The inertia of the golem carried it forwards. It could not stop in time. It smashed out of the window, tumbling through, to thump into the ground below.
Le Fay breathed a sigh of relief. There was no way that the golem could have survived that fall. It must have smashed to pieces on the ground.
He put his head through where the window had been, to look down at the destroyed golem, expecting to see its pale body picked out by the frail moonlight. But he couldn’t see it. It wasn’t there.
“Oh dear.” he said, although perhaps stronger words were called for. Perhaps he should get out of the Dark House, after all. Tackling some angry wizard was one thing. But an angry wizard in a body many times stronger than a normal human being? That was not bravery. That was foolishness. Even Le Fay could see that.
Le Fay made his way downstairs, keeping his eye out for the golem. Le Fay just intended to get out of there. Investigating an abandoned house was one thing. But this was not abandoned, and Le Fay was not about to steal off a wizard who was still extant, even if that wizard was in the body of a golem.
Le Fay made it back down to the ground floor. He picked up his carpet bag of supplies. He could not see the golem, and he hoped that the situation would continue.
He made his way to the room next to the front door. He intended to escape the way that he had before, by throwing a chair through the window and climbing out. It was better than jumping from a second story window, anyway.
In his panic to escape from the house he did not even consider slipping into the world of shadows, and escaping that way. But Le Fay was temporarily the wizard of a year ago, still scared of the dark, forgetful of everything which had occurred.
He put his carpet bag down on the floor of the room. There was something at the back of his mind about golems, something about the way that they were animated. Something about rubbing off a letter? But he could not quite recall the details.
He picked up the chair, and threw it at the window. The chair bounced off it. The glass was not even cracked. Then there was a thumping sound from the doorway.
Le Fay turned to see the golem standing there. Looking a little more closely at the golem, Le Fay saw that it had something inscribed on its forehead – in Hebrew, if he was not mistaken. And he suddenly recalled what he had once heard. Yes, he actually knew the tale, after all.
“Interloper! The glass has been mystically hardened. All doors out are locked. You will not escape. You will die!”
If the wizard-golem had used Magick to attack Le Fay then the wizard from Wythenstowe probably would not have stood a chance, despite Le Fay’s knowledge off Shadow Magick. But the golem, controlled by the mind of a wizard whose soul was inside it, and who had gone insane a long time ago, did not want to use Magick. He wanted the pleasure of ripping this intruder limb from limb.
The golem lumbered forwards. But, while it was far stronger than Edwyn, it was not by any means a dextrous thing, which had been proved by the way that it had not been able to avoid plummeting out of the upstairs window.
Edwyn ducked under the outstretched arms, and popped up between them. With all of his might he rubbed at the first letter of the word on the forehead of the golem. Emeth became meth, and the golem slowly toppled forwards, Edwyn dodging out of the way. It hit the floor, and crumbled into half a dozen large pieces of white clay. It was dead – as was the wizard who had transferred his consciousness into it.
Edwyn stared at it for a moment. He was no longer scared. He had won.
“Shadow Magick!” Edwyn suddenly said, smacking one hand into his forehead. “You fool, Edwyn Le Fay, why did you not escape into the land of shadows? All of that training which I did…”
It didn’t matter. He had defeated the monster without recourse to anything which he hadn’t known a year ago, in fact. But a year ago he would never have thought that the darkness might only have been an illusion.
He would stay in the house until first light, as he had said that he would, now that it was safe, and there were no Black Magicians in golem form. But first he wanted to see the secret room out of which the golem had come.
He went upstairs, into the room, to see that, among alchemical components (probably past their best) there were the spellbooks of the dead wizard: half a dozen old grimoires, no doubt containing rare and powerful spells. Le Fay grinned. He had finally struck the mother lode.
The end… for now.