Author’s note: before reading this story, part of the continuing gas-lamp fantasy chronicles of Edwyn Le Fay, it is advised that you read, in this order:
The Dark House
The House on the Cliff
Mr Naith & Mr Naith
Searching for Gideon De Ville
This story will continue in Edwyn Le Fay at the Trismegistus Club.
The Evil Plans Of Gideon De Ville
Edwyn Le Fay, in trying to get back spellbooks which he has been suspected of stealing, has tracked the spellbooks to one Gideon De Ville, a wizard suspected of being a bad sort, the kind of person who you really do not want to cross. Using luck much more than judgement – Edwyn Le Fay did not possess good judgement – the wizard has somehow managed to find the underground lair of Gideon De Ville. Now all that he has to do is to try to work out some way of getting the spellbooks back.
Edwyn Le Fay, in penetrating into the lair of De Ville, had sneaked a look around the corner of the corridor which he was hiding in. He had had the merest glimpse of De Ville, and of the gorilla, with a sack of stolen goods at the creature’s feet. But that was all that Edwyn had taken in, so far. He had not dared to sneak a better look.
Edwyn Le Fay heard Gideon De Ville talking. Who was De Ville talking to? Was there somebody else down here? Then Edwyn realised that De Ville must be talking to the gorilla.
“It will not be long now, Julius.” Gideon De Ville cackled. He had the sort of voice which was made for cackling. Especially when the wizard rubbed his hands together in glee.
The ape grunted in response. Edwyn knew that such creatures could not speak. But could this wizard have taught the gorilla to understand English? Edwyn did not know how intelligent such creatures were. He supposed that it was not beyond the bounds of possibility that the creature might learn to understand a few simple phrases. After all, a dog could be taught to understand the commands Fetch or Sit. People gave names to their pets, as well. Edwyn had had an uncle who had called his guard dog Caesar – which was pretty close to Julius, when you thought about it.
“No, I will soon teach the Trismegistus Club that it is not wise not to consider me for membership.” De Ville continued. “They must suffer, with all of their stupid rules that a person must be nominated by one of the other members to even be considered. What do I care for rules like that, Julius? I am the greatest wizard of all time!”
Edwyn Le Fay knew the Trismegistus Club, of course, that gentleman’s club for wizards located in the West End of London. But you had to have your name put forward by a current member; and, as Edwyn did not know any of the current members, he doubted if he would ever get to lounge in the leather-covered armchairs, or sip Scotch and soda.
Edwyn Le Fay risked sneaking a glance around the corner, to get his first proper look at Gideon De Ville. The man stood in the centre of a lushly furnished room, obviously the equivalent of some drawing room. For some reason Edwyn Le Fay had expected to see an almost bare stone chamber. He had only really noticed the ape on his first glance. But, then again, an adult male silverback gorilla was hard to miss.
The underground chamber was not bare, however; the room had carpets going from wall to wall. The carpet was in some green and red pattern, but had become a little worn in the centre, possibly where De Ville liked to pace up and down. The carpet must have been down at least a quarter of a century.
There were bookcases lining the back walls of the room. From where he was Edwyn could not tell if any of the books were on Magick, or not. But he would certainly have liked to have got a closer look at them.
There were a couple of armchairs in the room, as well as what looked like a log fire. The fire was not real, however, in that the logs were not consumed. The fire was mystical in nature, giving off light and a little heat. But a very powerful spell had been needed to make such a fire permanent (well, permanent until the death of the caster, anyway). To create something like this, which would burn for decades without consuming the wood, needed a vast amount of Magickal energy, which it needed to be invested with when the spell was cast.
There was what appeared to be flickering gas lamps on the walls of the room, providing light to the chamber. But Gideon De Ville was not on the gas. No gas lines, or electrical lines, ran to his secret lair. The gas lamps, although they could be turned down, or off, like normal gas lamps, were Magickal creations, just like the log fire.
There were a few other items in the room, such as a large globe of the world on a stand, and some gewgaws and knickknacks on the mantelpiece above the fire. Edwyn could not see the details of them from where he was, anyway. He was much more interested in Gideon De Ville.
Gideon De Ville was in his sixties. He was not a particularly tall man, although it was hard to judge his correct height, as a slight hunch to his back caused him to be bent over. He was dressed in an out of date black suit, including a black cape, despite the fact that they were indoors. Perhaps he felt the cold, living underground, as there was no way that a Magickal fire, made permanent in such a manner, could be quite as warming as the real thing.
The thing which kept drawing Edwyn’s gaze, though, were sticks of dynamite spilling out of the hemp floor and onto the carpet. He had never seen real dynamite before. But he had heard it described, and he knew what it was, and how powerful it was supposed to be when it exploded. That was what the gorilla had stolen – dynamite. But what on Earth did a wizard need dynamite for? Edwyn pulled his head back, so that he would not be seen, but carried on eavesdropping on what the wizard was saying to the gorilla.
“For too long I have had to hide down here, away from the eyes of the world, because I will not be confined in the knowledge which I seek out.” De Ville said. “For thirty years I have hid away, Julius, knowing that they would put me in Bradley Tower if I ever revealed to them the areas of sorcery which I have researched. But no longer will I hide away – or for very little longer, anyway.
“Those books which I obtained from Monk’s house were the last key to putting my plans into operation, Julius. They contained the spells which I needed to bring down all the enemies of those like me.”
He had the books from Obadiah Monk! So this Gideon De Ville had obtained them, after all. Edwyn Le Fay listened, to hear what other useful information De Ville would reveal in this rant.
“Obadiah Monk was a fool, Julius. He had all those spells of Necromancy, yet all he ever used them for was to create a couple of skeletal guards to protect his books. To imagine that he had spells which could have created a skeletal army, yet not once did he cast such spells. That is a crime against Magick. Spells are meant to be cast. But he is gone, dead of inactivity, no doubt.
“But I have not been inactive, have I/ No, I have waited and I have planned, and I have built up a collection of what must be the great Black Magick spells in Britain. I know of no other who has such tomes as I have. And those great spells will soon be put into effect. A few months, and they will all be used, and it is I who people will say should be the Magician Royal, rather than that fool Kobold. Yes, we will deal with Kobold soon enough. But first, Julius, we must deal with the blemish on wizardry which is the Trismegistus Club.
“They are worse than Monk was. A lot of them do not even bother to cast spells any more. They sit around on their upholstered chairs and think that all that a wizard should do is sleep or smoke cigars. They are a disgrace, and such mages must be destroyed, for the sake of Magick itself.
“And, tonight, they will be, Julius, when we place these sticks of dynamite beneath the Trismegistus Club.”
Julius grunted appreciatively. He seemed to like the idea of there being a big explosion.
“The building is protected by spells on its roof and its walls. My spells of detection have revealed that fact. But those old fools will never expect an attack from beneath them. They will not be able to conceive of something like that. But, if the plans are correct, a sewer runs almost directly beneath the Trismegistus Club. A well placed infernal device – or, in this case, these sticks of wonderful dynamite – will blow those fools back to Kingdom Come.”
Gideon De Ville laughed maniacally at that. He had a rather high-pitched laugh. Julius the gorilla, realising that his master had said something of import, clapped his great hands together in glee. The laugh of Gideon De Ville sent a chill down the spine of Edwyn. The younger wizard was not too keen on the ape clapping, either.
“Come, pick up the sack, Julius, it is time to place the dynamite.” De Ville said, when he had stopped laughing.
Suddenly Edwyn Le Fay realised that De Ville and his gorilla servant were going to leave the lair, which meant that they would find him! He had to get out of there, for if De Ville caught him Edwyn was certain that the evil wizard would kill him.
He went back down the passage as quietly as he could, sure that any second de Ville would come into the passage and see him.
“No, you have dropped some of the sticks of dynamite out of the sack, Julius. No, I’m not angry with you, old friend. Put the sack down and I will put the dynamite into it.”
At the end of the passage, in the darkness, Edwyn desperately felt around for some sort of a lever. He hands encountered an iron bar. He pulled down on it.
“There, all of the explosive is back in the sack, Julius. Yes, put the sack on your back. Now, is there anything else to take with us? Ah, yes, my top hat. A gentleman cannot leave his home improperly dressed…”
The secret door swung open. Edwyn ran out. As soon as he was outside, he lit his ever-burning taper. But would the secret door remain open, revealing the fact that he had been inside? It would give him away to De Ville. As he stared at the door, though, it began to swing shut.
Edwyn turned and belted along the sewer. As soon as he came to a tunnel he ran down there, and flattened himself against a wall. Just in time he remembered to put his taper out. It did not occur to Edwyn that this side sewer might be on the path to the Trismegistus Club. But, again, he was lucky.
Edwyn saw a light approach down the main sewer. He held his breath as Gideon De Ville and the gorilla walked past the end of the sewer. De Ville was talking to the gorilla, but all that Edwyn caught was “…greatest triumph, Lucius, far better than the time when I destroyed that foolish policeman who had been…” And then they were gone. Edwyn’s knees could stop shaking.
He crept over to the where the side sewer merged with the main one, and peaked around the corner. He could still see the ghostly green glow in the distance. He waited until it was out of sight, turned around some bend in the sewer. It was only then that he relit his ever-burning taper.
Now was the perfect opportunity to steal the spellbooks which had once belonged to Obadiah Monk, as De Ville would probably be gone for ages. Edwyn went back up to the little brick platform, and pressed the three bricks to cause the secret door to temporarily swing open. He went into the passage beyond. Then he stood there, as the secret door silently swung closed.
What was he doing? De Ville was intent on blowing up the Trismegistus Club. Edwyn simply could not let him do that. For the first time in his life, really, he considered other people.
His mind made up, Edwyn pulled on the metal lever to open the secret door. He ran out and – holding the taper in his teeth – hurried up the metal rungs of the ladder as quickly as he could.
Edwyn could get there before De Ville and warn them. De Ville was on foot, and – hopefully – the Trismegistus Club was some distance away. That was all that Edwyn thought about, saving the club and the people in it. It did not really occur to him that, if he did so, then he might earn the enmity of a very powerful diabolist, the sort of person who you really did not want for an enemy. Oh, and his pet gorilla.
Edwyn did not know whereabouts he was in London. The name of the street was unfamiliar to him. If he had had to find his way on foot he would not have known what direction to go in. But that was not necessary.
He stepped out into the street and hailed a hansom cab.
“The Trismegistus Club, and don’t spare the horses!” Le Fay climbed aboard; and they were off.
The horse pulling the cab trotted along the streets of London. It was faster than the pace of a walking man, but Edwyn worried that it might not be fast enough. He wanted to arrive at the Trismegistus Club before De Ville. He had to warn everybody at the club, and get them out of there, before the dynamite went off. But the speed of the hansom cab was restricted by all of the other traffic on the roads of London. There were other hansom cabs; omnibuses; trams; and people blithely crossing the road with apparent little concern for their safety, or the fact that he was in a hurry.
Eventually, though, Edwyn arrived at the Trismegistus Club, and it hadn’t been blown up yet. There was time to save everybody. He paid off the hansom cab driver, and ran up to the doors of the club.
Fred was the doorman on duty at the Trismegistus Club this morning, something which was a bit of a relief to Edwyn. It had been Fred who had told Edwyn that Obadiah Monk had died, and that there were spellbooks just waiting to be had, down in the old wizard’s house, on the cliffs of the coast of Kent. So, in a roundabout way, Fred was the cause of all of Edwyn Le Fay’s troubles. But Le Fay did not think about that at the moment.
“Fred! Get everybody out of the Trismegistus Club! Gideon De Ville has put an infernal device in the sewers beneath the club, and he intends to blow it to Kingdom Come. You have to get everybody out, or they will all be killed!”
One look at Edwyn Le Fay’s face was enough to convince Fred that the wizard was not lying. Edwyn relaxed, and walked over to the other side of the street, intending to go far enough away from the Trismegistus Club so that he would not be caught in the explosion.
Edwyn stared back at the Trismegistus Club. There was a short passage running down one side of the club, leading to a side door. That was where deliveries to the club would be made – sherry, cigars, that sort of thing. In the passage there was the round metal cover to the sewers. It had to be to the sewer which Gideon De Ville had mentioned, the one which ran right under the club.
Edwyn glanced back at the doors of the club. Not a single person had yet come out. Edwyn had a mental image of what was going on – of old wizards, comfortable in their leather armchairs, simply refusing to believe that there could be any sort of explosive device beneath the club.
“Dash it!” he swore. He had thought that his heroic actions had been completed with telling Fred about the explosives. But it was clear that, unless he wanted mass slaughter, there was still more to be done.
Edwyn Le Fay ran down the passage at the side of the Trismegistus Club. With some difficulty he managed to get the sewer cover up, and out of the way. He lit his ever-burning taper, and descended into the dark. Maybe he had got to the club before De Ville, and he might somehow dissuade the older wizard from seeking slaughter against the Trismegistus Club.
Edwyn turned to look to the side. He saw that he had not beaten Gideon De Ville to the Trismegistus Club; and that the dynamite had already been placed where it would presumably do the most damage; and that the fuses had been lit.
Edwyn could see that the dynamite had somehow been affixed to the roof of the sewer, many sticks all together. Had it been glued there? No, it must have been stuck to the roof by some sort of spell. And it was too high for him to reach.
He could see the fuses slowly burning down. Beyond the dynamite, at a safe distance down the sewer, Edwyn could see a green glow which had to be that of an ever-burning taper. It had to be Gideon De Ville, watching and gloating over the imminent explosion. Except that, with Edwyn’s own ever-burning taper glowing in the dark, the evil wizard must now realise that somebody else was there.
For a second Edwyn Le Fay thought that there was nothing he could do; and that, despite everything, he had been too late. Then he recalled a simple Word of Command. He was so anxious that he had almost forgotten a spell which he had known since he was twelve years old.
“TENEBRIS!” he shouted, pointing at the fuses. The spell could put out the wick of a burning candle. And it worked with burning fuses as well!
“No!” came a shout from down the sewer. Gideon De Ville must have seen the fuses go out. Edwyn Le Fay saw the ghostly green light of de Ville’s ever-burning taper bob as the wizard rushed down the sewer in his direction. Le Fay stood there, not knowing what to do. He did not realise that a few wizards, evacuated from the Trismegistus Club, had begun to investigate the opened sewer, and that the bravest of them, a young Scot by the name of Hamish McCormack, had even climbed down the iron rungs into the sewer.
“IGNITE!” Gideon De Ville shouted, pointing at the dynamite. For a second Edwyn Le Fay thought that De Ville was mystically commanding the dynamite to explode which, with him standing so close to it, would have blown Edwyn Le Fay to smithereens – and probably De Ville, as well, as he had run down the sewer towards the explosives. But all that the spell did was to ignite the fuses again. They began burning once more.
“TENEBRIS!” Edwyn Le Fay shouted. And the fuses went out once more. He was still concentrating on the dynamite, and he had not seen a second wizard begin to descend the iron rungs behind him.
Gideon De Ville pointed at Le Fay this time, though, and not the dynamite. The words he shouted out were in Enochian, once of the languages of Magick. Edwyn recognised the language, but not the actual spell, though. But he certainly felt it.
It was like some giant invisible hand had hit him in the chest. It was some powerful spell of Telekinesis. He was lifted of his feet and hurled backwards. Had there been a wall directly behind him he might have been killed. But, instead, he ended up landing in the sewer, sliding backwards in the filth.
The breath was knocked out of him. Edwyn lay there for a few seconds, wondering if De Vile would come and finish him off. Or perhaps he would send the gorilla to do the dread deed. But that didn’t happen. Instead he heard somebody close to him shout “TENEBRIS!” to put out the fuses which had been relit by Gideon De Ville.
Edwyn Le Fay, once he got his breath back, picked himself up out of the filth, and staggered back to the metal rungs leading up to the street. There were now three wizards standing there – the young Scottish wizard and two elderly ones – and Edwyn could see the flickering light of Gideon De Ville’s ever-burning taper disappearing into the distance. Despite all that De Ville had said about the Trismegistus Club, he was not about to take n three of their members in mystical combat.
Edwyn climbed up out of the sewer. He was tired, and his back hurt. He was just glad that it was all over.
By the time that the police turned up the wizards of the Trismegistus Club had cast a spell to bring the dynamite floating down from the roof of the sewer, and taken the explosives, very gently, up to the level of the streets. The wizards – now that De Ville had made his escape – were talking to themselves, while Edwyn stood off to one side, feeling very despondent.
There were around a dozen policemen, pouring out of two Black Marias. The Trismegistus Club was an august institution, and the police obviously took an attempted attack on it very seriously. Edwyn vaguely wondered who had called the police. He supposed that the doorman, Fred, might have been sent to the local police station, while he had been down in the sewer, facing off Gideon De Ville.
Edwyn Le Fay saw Detective Inspector Steel among the policemen. Steel made a beeline for Edwyn.
Edwyn had had enough for one day. He had crept along the sewers of London, and then had to race to the Trismegistus Club to stop it from getting blown up. He had angered a powerful wizard, and he had had a spell of telekinesis pick him up and hurl him along the sewer, covering him in filth. He was not having a very good day, and he had no time for this officer of the law.
“I will not be arrested!” Edwyn said. “I will not go down to the police station!”
“I’m not going to arrest you, you fool!” Steel shouted. “Was De Ville behind this?”
“I said, was Gideon De Ville behind this?”
“Yes, he tried to…”
“I know what he tried to do! I am not a fool. But do you know where he is? Do you know the location of his underground lair?”
“Well, yes, I was there earlier…”
“Get in the Black Maria. No, you fool, in the front with the driver. We may not yet be too late! The bird might not have yet flown the coop.”
There followed a madcap journey through the streets of London, with the drivers of the two Black Marias really not sparing the horses. The other road users got out of the way, and the journey back to where Edwyn had emerged from the sewers was a lot quicker than the hansom cab ride down to the Trismegistus Club.
Detective Inspector Steel went down the metal rungs first into the sewer, followed by Edwyn.
“Where? Where is his lair?” Steel asked.
“Here.” Edwyn said. He pressed the same three bricks as before, and the secret door opened.
“Wait here!” Steel ordered Edwyn Le Fay. Edwyn did not argue. He had had enough excitement for one day
Steel led the police as they rushed into the lair of Gideon De Ville. Edwyn Le Fay put his back to the brick wall; and then slowly slid to the ground. It had been a long say. But he supposed that it was all over, now. He had no desire to go up against a powerful Black Magician and his four hundred and fifty pound simian bodyguard.
There was a scream of rage from Detective Inspector Steel, which Edwyn even heard from outside the lair. Edwyn had no idea what is was about, though, until Steel came out of the underground lair, and shone his torch up and down the sewer, as though looking for somebody.
“Gone!” Steel said. “Just when I was about to lay my hands on that blackguard. I thought it might have been some close range Portal Magick. But that’s not it. If it was a very powerful spell he could be anywhere now, him and that dashed trained ape of his.”
Edwyn guessed from that outburst that Gideon De Ville had used some powerful Portal Magick spell to transport himself to safety.
“I should have put a bullet in his heart, rather than tried to put some cuffs on his wrists.” steel said, ruefully. “At least we’ve got his spellbooks. He didn’t have time to grab those. That is a minor victory, I suppose. But I’ve been after that villain for ten years.”
Edwyn focused on the fact that the policeman had said that they had got De Ville’s spellbooks. And De Ville had had Monk’s spellbooks. Which meant that…
“You now have Obadiah Monk’s spellbooks.” Edwyn said to Steel. “You know that I didn’t steal those books.
“I always knew you didn’t steal them.” Detective Inspector Steel said. “That wasn’t what this affair was about. “Come to the police station, Mr le Fay, and we will get you a change of clothes, as those are somewhat stained. Then you can have a cup of tea while I explain everything.”
Edwyn was too tired to argue. He went along to the police station, where he was given clean clothes, and hot tea, just as had been promised.
Then Detective Inspector Steel explained that the stolen spellbooks had been peripheral to the whole affair. Yes, he had wanted the spellbooks back; but Steel had seen an opportunity to try and get De Ville, as well.
“I knew by the following morning that it was almost certainly neither you nor the Naiths who had got their hands on those spellbooks of Monk, but Gideon Le Fay. I had not thought that he would have been able to resist stealing those books. So why put a mystical marker in one of the books, so that we should be able to trace them all of the way back to his lair. But, unfortunately, De Ville discovered our tracer, and erased it. We knew who had taken the books, but we still did not know where his underground lair was supposed to be. The sewers under London are very extensive, after all.
“That was where you came in, Mr Le Fay.” (Edwyn had noticed that the police officer was now calling him Mister Le Fay, rather than just Le Fay, as before.) “The Magickal resources available to Scotland Yard are very limited. We do not have some army of wizards at our command.
“I though that a young, intelligent wizard like you – if enough outside pressure was applied – might be able to find De Ville and his secrets, where my officers have searched time and time again, and come up empty.
“Well, we did not get De Ville. But hopefully our capturing his tomes will set back his plans somewhat.”
“Is that it?” Edwyn asked. He did not feel happy.
“Yes, that is it.” Steel said. “We tried to catch De Ville – and I would do anything to bring that rogue to justice. Justice must prevail, after all.”
“You used me.” Edwyn said. He had been tricked into assisting Steel, while all the time Steel had known that he had not stolen those books of spells.
“If you wish to see it that way.” Steel said. “If I were you, though, Mr Le Fay, I would see it as you have had an exciting adventure while assisting the Metropolitan Police in their enquiries. Now, I have a lot to do, Mr Le Fay, so I will have my sergeant take your statement, and then show you out of the building.”
And that was it, as far as Edwyn Le Fay’s adventure in the tunnels under London went.
At least Edwyn Le Fay gained something out of this affair, even if it was not the spellbooks of Obadiah Monk: after saving the Trismegistus Club, and the lives of all of the members present on the day, he was made a full member of the gentleman’s club, something which he had never expected to occur.
But he would rather have had the spellbooks, though.