This story features Edwyn Le Fay, and follows on from
The Dark House
The House On The Cliff
Mr Naith & Mr Naith
and it is suggested that readers check those out first. This story will continue in
The Evil Plans of Gideon De Ville
Searching For Gideon De Ville
Edwyn Le Fay was not a happy little wizard. At the moment he was suspected by the police of stealing spellbooks from the house of Obadiah Monk, an old wizard who had lived on the south coast, and who had recently passed away. And, yes, Edwyn Le Fay had travelled down to the house of the deceased wizard with the idea of helping himself to the spellbooks of Obadiah Monk before anybody else got their hands on them. Except that things had not gone entirely to plan.
There had been other people in the house, with the exact same idea as Le Fay – help themselves to Monk’s old tomes, and see if they could find some spells are areas of Magick which they did not know. At first Le Fay had thought that the only people who had been inside the house had been the twins, Mr Naith and Mr Naith. He had presumed that they must have got hold of Monk’s spellbooks. So he had paid an urchin to steal what he had thought were Monk’s spellbooks.
Except that the urchin had, in fact, stolen the mystic tomes which had belonged to Mr Naith and Mr Naith. The wizardly twins had put some sort of alarm on their books, and they came around to see Edwyn Le Fay. They had not been too pleased to have Edwyn steal from them. If not for the fact that a detective had been watching Le Fay’s lodgings, and had rushed inside when they had kicked the door in, Edwyn might have had some horrible spell cast on him.
As it was, in the end – after the detective departed – the Naith twins took their spellbooks back, with nothing more than a strong word against Le Fay. They even provided him with the name of the person who really had made off with Obadiah Monk’s spellbooks: a wizard by the name of Gideon De Ville.
The morning after the contretemps with the Naith twins Edwyn Le Fay set about trying to get the spellbooks back. If he had known that they were going to cause him so much trouble he would never have gone down to Monk’s house in the first place. One of the reasons why he had become a wizard was that he had hoped for a relatively easy life. If you were a wizard you did not have to get up at the crack of dawn. There was no heavy lifting. Okay, perhaps you actually had to have some trade, such as inventor or antiquarian, to get the money come in. But it was not so bad if you had a rich father, like he did. Edwyn Le Fay had not done a single proper day’s work in his life.
“De Ville, de Ville…” Le Fay muttered to himself, as he flicked through the pages of his copy of Burke’s Wizardage. The name sounded French to him. But Gideon was not a French name.
There was a single entry for De Ville, Gideon, in Burke’s Wizardage. There were no other De Villes listed. Edwyn stared at the entry. It said that Gideon De Ville had been born in 1834, in St Helier, in Jersey. That meant that he was just over sixty years old. He had been privately tutored in Magick. And that was about all that was listed on him. There was no current address.
Edwyn Le Fay closed the book with a snap. This was not going to be easy, if he did not know where the man lived. And De Ville had those books which he wanted… er, which he needed to hand over to the police to prove that he had not stolen them.
Again, Edwyn’s first stop was the Trismegistus Club. Edwyn hoped that this De Ville was a member there. after all, the man was now around sixty, so perhaps he liked being in that gentleman’s club, sitting in a comfortable armchair, drinking whatever it was that they drank in there. If he was a member, then Edwyn could hopefully get the doorman who he knew to bring the wizard down to the entrance to the club, and something could be arranged to return Monk’s spellbooks to the rightful owner.
On arrival at the club Edwyn saw that the doorman was not the one who he had got friendly with, but one of the other ones. Edwyn had not seen ‘his’ doorman since the man had given him the tip off that Obadiah Monk had died, and that there might be spellbooks in that house on the Kent coast just waiting for whoever got to them first.
Edwyn walked up to speak to the doorman. Edwyn had not seen this doorman before. It was not Fred, who had told Edwyn about the fact that the old wizard Obadiah Monk was dead. Nor was it the doorman who, for the cost of a shilling, had told Edwyn about the Naith twins.
“Good morning.” the doorman said, blocking Edwyn’s way. “Are you a member of the Trismegistus Club?”
The doorman knew very well that Edwyn was not a member. he would not have blocked Edwyn’s path if he had thought that Edwyn Le Fay was a member of this exclusive club for wizards.
“No I am not, but I don’t want to come in, I just want to know if Gideon De Ville is a member and whether he is in the club today.” Edwyn said, quickly, before the doorman could raise any other objections.
“It is not up to me to bandy around the names of who is, and who is not, a member of the Trismegistus Club.” the doorman said, haughtily, looking down his nose at Edwyn.
“Look, I’ll pay you.” Edwyn said. He was not above bribing people to get what he wanted.
“I will not be bribed.” the doorman said.
“I am glad to hear that.” said a voice from behind Edwyn.
“Yes, Mr Carweather, sir.” the doorman said, touching his cap and holding open the door for the man who had just spoken.
Edwyn turned to look at this other individual. He was old, being at least sixty. He was of average build, with a balding pate and grey-white mutton chop whiskers. He was dressed in fine clothing, and held a silver-headed cane in his right hand. He had to be one of the members of the Trismegistus Club.
Edwyn grasped the arm of the elderly wizard before he could proceed into the club.
“Please, sir, I need to know: is Mr Gideon De Ville a member of the Trismegistus Club?”
“Certainly not!” George Carweather said. “We would never have his sort in the Trismegistus Club. It is a club for gentlemen! Now unhand me, sir, before I make a complaint!”
George Carweather turned to continue into the club. But Edwyn had not yet finished with this old wizard.
“Please, just tell me where I can find him!” Le Fay called out, as Carweather went through the doors.
Carweather walked back out. He looked Edwyn Le Fay up and down, taking in the measure of the man.
“Sir, I do not know why you wish to find De Ville. But I suggest that you cease any attempt to find him, whatever the reason. Gideon De Ville is the worst of blackguards, and a suspected diabolist. He is, without a doubt, a criminal who should be locked up in Bradley Tower. And, no, I do not know where he might be found – nobody does.”
With that, Carweather turned and went into the lobby of the Trismegistus Club, leaving Edwyn Le Fay outside.
Edwyn Le Fay slowly walked home, as it began to rain on him, a slow, persistent rain, and the sort that will, eventually, soak you to the skin. He hardly noticed it, being lost in thought about what Carweather had said.
It was what Le Fay had said about nobody knowing where De Ville might be found. That explained why the man’s address was not listed in Burke’s Wizardage. The fact that De Ville had been described as the worst of blackguards was also more than a little troubling for Le Fay. Such people rarely appreciated being contacted.
In his lodgings Edwyn pondered the problem. His first problem, even before he got the spellbooks back from De Ville, was to find out where the wizard was staying, as his address was not in Burke’s. But, as Edwyn had no real idea where this Gideon De Ville was, the greater problem of the mystic tomes was rendered moot at the moment.
Edwyn decided, in the end, to go and visit some less than salubrious establishment. He had read that people sometimes ventured into inns and taverns in search of information. It was not something which he often did, though. He had done it when he had tried to research the Dark House of Lancashire, though. But he had never really frequented the inns of London.
Once he had made his mind up he set out to the East End. He hoped that there might be some rumours concerning De Ville. Edwyn Le Fay reasoned that De Ville could not be too far afield as the wizard had heard about the death of Obadiah Monk; and the Naith twins appeared to know De Ville by sight. That suggested that, if the man did not live in London somewhere, then he at least visited the greatest city in the world.
Edwyn Le Fay started out in a public house called the Rose and Crown. By the time that he got there he was just glad to get out of the rain, as it was really starting to come down.
Edwyn had a half-pint of something which stretched various sales acts to the maximum by describing itself as beer. But, for Edwyn – who was unused to alcohol – it was probably for the best that it was watered down.
Edwyn tried talking to the people of that establishment about Gideon De Ville. But all they did was to shake their heads. Either they had not heard of him, or they really did not want to talk about him. Even Edwyn offering a whole shilling for information had no effect on those drinkers in that bar.
It was not until Edwyn stumbled into his fourth pub of the day – the Necromancer’s Arms – that somebody admitted knowing De Ville.
“Gideon De Ville? The wizard? Yes, I’ve heard of him. He’s supposed to be somebody who you don’t want to mess with.” the man doing the speaking looked like the sort of person who you did not want to mess with, especially if dark alleys were involved. But it did not occur to Edwyn that if somebody built like a brick outhouse was scared of De Ville then maybe Edwyn should not continue this course if action. No, by then, Edwyn was damper than a drowned rat and just as fed up. He just wanted to find De Ville, get the spellbooks back, and have the police cease and desist from harassing him.
“You know him?” Edwyn asked. He felt that he was actually getting somewhere.
“I didn’t say that. Nobody knows him. But I’ve heard of him.”
“Where does he live?” Edwyn asked. “Does he live in London?”
“Ah, well, that’s the thing, you see. Nobody knows where he lives, either. And who would be stupid enough to try to seek him out? But there’s a rumour…”
“What’s the rumour?” Edwyn asked, excitedly.
The person who he was talking to drained the rest of his beer out of his glass and put it back down on the tavern table.
“You don’t expect me to talk with a dry mouth, do you?” he asked.
“What? Oh, no, of course not.” Edwyn went up to the bar to get the man another beer. While Edwyn was away the man smiled grimly. This young fool was going to get himself killed, if he actually found De Ville. But that wasn’t his problem. And if he was going to get killed then he wouldn’t need his money – so there was no harm in cadging a few beers off this corpse-to-be beforehand.
Edwyn returned with a pint of beer and placed it in front of the big man, trying not to spill any. Even though he was near-virginal as far as taverns were concerned, he still understood that people did not like having their beer spilled.
“What’s the rumour?” Edwyn asked.
The man made Edwyn wait, seeing that he had a captive audience. He took a long draught of his beer, before belching loudly, and then wiping his lips with the back of his hand.
“Listen, friend, what I am about to tell you, you did not hear from me, in case some fool should ask. I didn’t say anything, you know?”
Edwyn nodded. He thought he was about to get the address of Gideon De Ville.
“Well, I have heard a tale that the reason why nobody knows where in London De Ville is to be found is that he don’t live on the streets of London – he lives below the streets of London. Exactly where, I don’t know. But there’s all manner of tunnels down there, ones which nobody knew about ‘cause they weren’t in no maps. They found some of them when they dug the tunnels for the sewers. And the rumour is that was when de Ville decided to go underground, when all of those tunnels was bein’ built. He paid some of the workers to dig him a few extra, ones which they didn’t know about. And he has supposed to have lived down there ever since, right close to the city, like, but where nobody – like the police – are ever going to think to look.”
The big man knocked back the rest of his pint, got up, and walked out into the rain, leaving Edwin alone at the table.
Underground! Edwyn Le Fay would never even have considered that Gideon De Ville might live beneath the streets of London. Edwyn did not like the idea of living underground, and never seeing the sun. He supposed that it must get very damp down there, too. But if you were a person who was interested in the sort of Magick which society did not approve of then Edwyn could see the attraction of living somewhere where you might never be found.
Had Edwyn not had some beer he would have gone home and tried to think things through, as any sensible person should. But, instead, he thought that there was no time like the present. And at least he would be out of the rain.
Edwyn walked out of the tavern, into the rain. He walked around the back streets of the area, until he found an alley with a manhole cover. He had great difficulty getting the manhole cover off, breaking one of his nails in the process. But he finally managed to get the manhole cover open. He climbed down the rungs of the metal ladder, into the dark. When he was at the bottom he lit up his ever-burning taper. He then began exploring the sewers of London.
There are some wizards who are fortuitous, and are simply born lucky. Had Edwyn Le Fay been one of those then he would have stumbled over what he sought almost straight away. But Edwyn Le Fay was not one of those wizards.
Edwyn got lost. He had not bothered with the idea of a map. He ended up going around and around, getting all manner of unmentionable stuff on his shoes and the cuffs of his trousers. Eventually he found a ladder back to the surface. He then went home, giving up the search – at least for the rest of the day – as a bad idea.
His mood was not helped by the fact that when he got home he saw that there was another man, presumably a police detective, watching his house.
The next day it wasn’t raining. That helped put Edwyn in a slightly better mood. It was better when it wasn’t raining.
He tried to think of a plan to find Gideon De Ville. There had to be some way in which to discover where he was hiding out.
All that he could think of doing was to look at what plans existed of the sewer network. He knew that there must be plans of the sewers, ones done when the sewers had been dug following the Great Stink. Perhaps he could work out from those where any secret areas might be.
The plans were found at the library. Edwyn spent a long time studying, taking notes. He was not entirely sure what he was looking for, however. He had thought that it would be simple to identify a likely area for some underground lair, and that all that he would have to do is to look to see where the sewers did not go. But they seemed to go everywhere.
Perhaps the underground lair of Gideon De Ville was on the outskirts of London, connecting to the outer edge of the sewer network. That was a possibility, he supposed. But how did that help him? Was he supposed to investigate the edge of the entire sewer network? That would take him ages. Too long, as far as he was concerned. But he could not think of anything else to do; and he could not think of any way in which Magick could help him.
Edwyn decided that he would simply have to search the sewers until he struck lucky. He would start the search that evening, in the north of London. Then he would simply work his way around, anti-clockwise – or widdershins – until he discovered what he sought. He made as good a copy of the northern part of the map as he could, and then handed the map back, having spent most of the day in the library. No doubt the librarians thought that he was some sort of a sewage engineer, rather than a wizard in search of Magick books. But let them think what they liked. Edwyn did not care.
Edwyn went home, to prepare for the evening. There was still somebody watching his house, some detective intent on catching him carrying books which had been stolen from the house of the late Obadiah Monk. When he got the books back he would have to have them taken to the police station where Detective Inspector Steel was. Perhaps he could employ an urchin for that task, as he did not want to be seen carrying stolen property around London.
He had a bite to eat, and he changed into some clothing which he did not mind getting dirty, considering where he was going to that night. Then he assembled the equipment which he would be taking with him, on his mission: his ever-burning taper, his mythometer, and his map of the most northerly of the sewers. That was all the equipment which he possessed. But wizards did not bother with such things as wands any more – they were so eighteenth century.
Edwyn did not go out his front door that night. He wanted the person watching his house to think that he was in all evening (he had left a light on). So he went out the back, climbing over the wall in the yard at the back, into a neighbour’s yard, and then down a passage away from the front of the house.
He then made his way by hansom cab to where he intended to start his search.
Edwyn was not sure if he was in quite the right area, when he got down from his hansom cab. He had made his map of the sewers of northern London, but he was not sure exactly how those sewers correlated with the streets above them.
By the time that Edwyn began his search it was already dark, the sun having set a good hour ago. He did not know this area of London at all. There were a few houses, a few taverns, but – where he had been dropped off by the cabbie – there were also some industrial establishments, such as a lumber yard, a cement factory, and so on. Edwyn wondered if the hansom cab driver had actually taken him where he had asked to go, or whether he had gulled him by dropping him off short.
Edwyn decided to have a look around the area, anyway. All which he had to do was to find some way down into the sewers.
That was when Edwyn saw some dark shape in one of the commercial premises, despite the fact that the place was supposed to be closed. Somebody was moving around inside the office.
Edwyn wondered how the person had got in, considering that there was a padlock on the door to the front. He went around the side of the building, to where the gates were: or, rather, where the gates should have been, if they had not been wrenched off their hinges.
Edwyn retreated into the shadows of a doorway opposite, while he pondered what he should do. It was clear to him that somebody had broken into the office of some construction business. Edwyn would normally have summoned the police on seeing such a crime, because that was what people were supposed to do. But he was not happy with the police at the moment, who seemed to have things in for him.
He thought about contacting some passer-by to go and contact the police, leaving him free to disappear down into the sewers. But there was nobody around. There was not one person on the streets that night.
While Edwyn tried to decide on a course of action the thief came back out of where the gates had been – and that was when Edwyn almost jumped out of his skin. Thankfully he managed not to cry out in shock.
The thief was not human. It was some great ape – a gorilla, Edwyn thought, although he had only ever seen pictures of them, rather than the real thing. The creature was only around five and a half feet tall, but it was massively broad. It had so many muscles on its heavy frame that it must have weighed four hundred pounds or more.
What was remarkable about the creature was that it was wearing a leather satchel. It was also carrying a sack slung over one shoulder. Why was it carrying a sack? Ah, yes, the swag, Edwyn thought. The gorilla was a thief.
Suddenly Edwyn recalled that he had seen the face of some great ape in the darkness, when he had gone down to the Obadiah Monk house on the south coast. He had wondered, since then, whether he had imagined that face, or not. But now he thought that maybe there was a connection to this gorilla was walking down the street with a sack slung over his shoulder.
Edwyn decided to follow this ape, although at a very respectful distance. He must not alert the creature to his presence. Not when the creature was able to pull off a pair of cast iron gates. With strength like that, the creature could have made mincemeat of Edwyn. It could probably have pulled his arms off and used them to beat him around the head.
Edwyn moved as stealthily as he could. He was aided and abetted by the darkness, and the fact that the gorilla did not look behind it. It moved surprisingly quickly, for such a big creature. It crossed a road, looking left and then right. Then it went into an alleyway.
Edwyn hurried to the edge of the alleyway, and peeked around the corner, ready to run if he had to. But there was no sign of the creature. It seemed that it had vanished into thin air.
Then Edwyn heard a grating sound. He looked at the floor of the alleyway, and he saw a great, gnarled, hairy black hand pull a manhole cover across. It had gone down into the sewers. The powerful fingers were withdrawn. It had not quite pulled the heavy metal cover all of the way across, leaving a slight gap.
Edwyn was now convinced that the creature was connected to De Ville in some manner. The fact that this gorilla had gone down into the sewers could not be a coincidence.
Edwyn waited as long as he dared, as he did not want the creature to get too far ahead. But he did not want it to hear him pull the metal cover out of the way, either. The last thing that he wanted was to come face to face with the creature again. He did not realise that gorillas were usually peaceful creatures; like many people of the age, he was under the misapprehension that they were savage brutes.
Edwyn pulled the manhole cover back. It made a horrible grating sound, and he was sure that the animal must have heard it. He only pulled the manhole cover far enough so that he could get down into the manhole.
Despite his heart hammering in his chest Edwyn descended the metal rungs, into the darkness (and he had come to distrust darkness, of late). It was probably the bravest thing which he had yet done in his life.
No powerful arms grabbed him. He was not face to face with a gorilla. It had not heard him come down the iron rungs.
Edwyn looked to the left and the right, as his hand reached for his ever-burning taper. But, ahead of him, some distance down the sewer, he could see the silhouette of the great ape as it ambled along. It still carried the sack over its back, giving it the silhouette of some malformed hunchbacked creature. But, in its right hand, it held up an ever-burning taper. It was that ghostly green glow which illuminated the creature’s way, and allowed Edwyn to see it.
Edwyn did not get his taper out. If he could see the gorilla’s taper, then, if it turned its head, it would be able to see his. He could not afford to risk being seen.
Instead he walked along the sewer, trying not to trip over or slip, or make any noise which the ape might here. The sewer was round, and the unspeakable sludge was only in the centre, so if he kept to the side, as best as he could, he would not become covered in filth.
As he followed the gorilla through the tunnels he wondered how the gorilla had managed to light the ever-burning taper. Such creatures could not speak, could they? Even if it had been able to mimic the words like some parrot, they would not be infused in Magickal power. It must have used a match to light the taper. But, then, thinking about it, Edwyn realised that the taper must already have been lit. It was in the satchel, and was lit the whole time. With the satchel closed the light would not leak out. Edwyn had never thought about keeping such a taper lit, but hidden, so that it could be pulled out when needed.
The great ape went for some distance through the sewers, perhaps a mile, perhaps two – Edwyn could not see his fob watch in darkness, and he was a terrible judge of time and distance. He could not see the map which he had with him, and, with the various turns which the gorilla had taken, Edwyn was totally lost, although he did not realise that.
Eventually the gorilla walked up some stone steps onto a small platform, raised a little bit above the level of the sewer. Edwyn saw that there was a set of iron rungs leading upwards. He would be able to return to the surface world without having to retrace his steps.
The gorilla stopped and studied the wall. Edwyn stopped moving, as well, in case he should cause some sound while the gorilla was still. Edwyn supposed that, being an animal, the beast probably had very sharp hearing.
The gorilla then pushed at certain bricks on the wall. Part of the wall slid back, revealing a secret opening. Edwyn would never have guessed that there was a secret door there, unless he had seen it open. The gorilla went through the opening. It closed behind the gorilla, plunging the sewer into total darkness.
“Bother.” Edwyn said. He felt in his pockets until he found the ever-burning taper.
“LUMEN!” The ever-burning taper sprung into life, its phantasmal, eerie green light flowing down from the end of the taper.
Edwyn went up to the small platform. The filth of the sewers never reached the platform. A person could climb up the iron rungs, to wherever they came out, and, unless somebody saw the person exit the sewers, they would not realise where the person had come from.
Edwyn stared at the bricks. It looked like a perfectly normal wall to him. There was no indication as to what bricks should be pressed. Nor did he know of any spell which might reveal the answer. He could not see any trace of the secret door, either, the bricks fitted together so seamlessly.
Edwyn began pressing bricks at random, in the absence of a better idea. One of the bricks slid into the wall a bit, then back out. How many bricks had the gorilla pressed? Three of them, Edwyn thought, and they probably had to be pressed in the correct order.
Edwyn kept pressing the bricks in front of him. He was standing in the same position as the gorilla, so the bricks had to be pretty much straight in front of him.
Another brick pressed in. the secret door did not yet open. A third brick pressed into the wall. Still the secret door did not open. But Edwyn was sure that there had only been three brick presses. He doubted if a gorilla could remember a sequence longer than that, anyway. He was not going to be outwitted by some ape.
He tried the bricks in different sequences. There were only six possible combinations, anyway. The door swung open on the fifth attempt. The doorway had a jagged edge, with the edge being whole bricks, giving the secret door almost a serrated appearance. Edwyn went through the secret door into the passage beyond. The secret door closed silently behind him.
By the spectral green light of his taper Edwyn could see a long, stone passage, that ended in a turn to the left. Beyond that turn, in an area that Edwyn could not see, there was light of a more natural colour, partially illuminating one end of the secret passage.
Edwyn looked around. There was a welcome mat at his feet, its rough, fibrous surface designed so that people could wipe their feet and not trail anything unpleasant into the passage. Edwyn wiped his feet without even thinking about it. If there was a mat on which to wipe your feet that was what you did.
Edwyn then realised that anybody looking down the passage would see him holding the ever-burning taper, lit up by the green glow.
Edwyn did not dare to speak any Magick words to put the taper out. He feared that they might be heard. He wet his finger tips and pressed them together onto the end of the taper, all the time having thoughts of darkness in his mind. He had been told that a wizard – and only a wizard – could put out an ever-burning taper in such a manner. But he had never tried putting a Magickal taper out in such a manner until now. Edwyn Le Fay was rather surprised when it worked.
Edwyn Le Fay crept along the passage, until he reached the corner, where it opened out into a room. Not only was there the gorilla there, the sack at his feet, but also one of the most dangerous wizards in London: the evil blackguard Gideon De Ville.
He had found the secret lair of Gideon De Ville. Now all that Edwyn Le Fay had to do was to get back the spellbooks which had belonged to Obadiah Monk. But that is a different story.