This is part of the ongoing adventures of the Victorian wizard Edwyn Le Fay. The stories should be read in this order:
The Dark House
The House On The Cliff
Mr Naith and Mr Naith
Searching For Gideon De Ville
The Evil Plans of Gideon De Ville
Edwyn Le Fay At The Trismegistus Club
An Enforced Vacation
Edwyn Le Fay In Oxford
Back To London
The House Of Edward Lang
The House Of Edward Lang
Edwyn Le Fay unfolded the piece of paper and looked at the address. He knew the street, having walked down it three nights ago. He could not recall what the particular house had looked like, however.
Some ten minutes later he was standing outside of the house. The house looked decrepit, with slates missing from its roof. It did not look the sort of house in which a wizard would stay. Well, not now, anyway. But this slum house certainly looked old enough to have been around in 1708. So judged Edwyn Le Fay, even though he didn’t know the first thing about architecture.
Perhaps it had looked different a hundred and eighty six years ago, though. It would certainly have been in a better condition. Perhaps Lang had lived at the place. Edwyn hoped so, and that the small, wizened man had not sent him on some wild goose chase.
Edwyn went and knocked on the front door. The door was dirty, stained by the smoky air of London. The door had once been painted red, but was now more black than that colour. In several places the paint had peeled away from the door, revealing the wood underneath. The wood which had been revealed was beginning to rot and crumble away. The house really needed a new front door.
Nobody came to open the door. Had the door been opened, then Edwyn had intended to ask whoever lived here now if he could have a look around the house.
He knocked again on the front door. Still nobody answered the door. He tried a third time, before concluding, eventually, that there was nobody at home.
Edwyn wondered if he should come back at some later date or time, when whoever lived in the house was in. But he really wanted to see inside the house. It also occurred to him that, perhaps, nobody lived in this house, and that he would not get an answer to his knocking no matter what time he came back.
There was a passage to the side of the house, a narrow way between that house and the next. It obviously led to the back of the house. Edwyn went down that passage, to see one of the smallest cobbled yards which you could imagine. The only thing in the yard was a water pump.
One of the windows on the ground level was open. Checking to make sure that nobody was watching him Edwyn climbed through the window, into the house.
He found himself in the back room of the house. He had expected to come into some kitchen area, but there was not even a stove in the place. He did not realise that many of the slums in the area did not possess any sort of cooking facilities.
There was a stale crust of some loaf in one corner of the otherwise bare room. It was beginning to go mouldy. Somebody had been in this house, not all that long ago. Bread did not suddenly appear.
“Hello? Is anybody here?” Edwyn called out, holding his ever-burning taper high above his head. If anybody was using this house as a place to doss he did not want to surprise them. But there was no reply. Whoever had been here had moved on.
Edwyn moved out of the room into a hall which ran to the front door. There was only one other room on the ground floor. This was a small house, being only two up, two down. But some people in Blackchapel only had a single room to live in – four would have been luxury. It did not really strike Edwyn as being odd that this house was lying empty at the moment.
Edwyn went into the downstairs room at the front of the house. There were dirty net curtains up at the narrow window. That was the only item of furnishings in the room. The floor was bare boards. There was a fireplace in the room – where a person might have put some metal pot on, in the absence of a stove. There were ashes in the fireplace.
Edwyn went and put his hands close to the ashes in the grate, to see if there was any sign of warmth. But there was nothing. The fire had not been recent.
Edwyn looked around the rest of the room, but there really was not that much to see, apart from some rather ugly wallpaper peeling away from the damp walls. There was no bookcase, no spellbooks belonging to Edward Lang. But Edwyn, somewhat disappointed, supposed that there wouldn’t be, after almost two centuries – if this house had actually once belonged to Edward Lang, that was. He only had that old man’s word that Edward Lang had once lived here. It struck Edwyn Le Fay as possible that the old man had lied. It occurred to Edwyn that he had not even obtained the old man’s name.
Edwyn Le Fay supposed that if there had once been anything belonging to Lang then it would have been cleared out of this house over a century ago. Spellbooks were valuable, and would have been sold. The only thing was that Edwyn Le Fay had never heard of the spellbooks of Edward Lang ever having been sold. According to the accepted history they had all gone on a big bonfire, along with his other possessions, when the wizard had been executed for deviltry and diabolism.
Le Fay went upstairs next. There were two rooms, one at the front of the house, and one at the back. The room at the back was bare floorboards, with nothing in it. There were not even any drapes up at the window.
The room at the front at least had some net curtains up at the narrow window. There was another fireplace in this room, situated directly above the one in the room downstairs. There were ashes in the hearth. These, too, were cold.
In one corner of the room there was some child’s cloth dolly, a very primitive toy. Edwyn picked it up and looked at it. Had some family been living in this house? If so, they had moved out, for reasons which he did not know.
Edwyn decided to get out his mythometer, and cast the simple spell which would reveal if there was any Magick close by (other than the ever-burning taper, of course). He did not actually expect to find anything, as grimoires did not radiate Magick; and any mystical items would probably have been taken away long ago. But you never knew.
He found nothing. There was no Magickal radiation which he could detect, beyond the ever-burning taper which he used for light. He sighed deeply, and put his mythometer back in his pocket, letting the spell of detection lapse.
Edwyn had noticed a door under the stairs, which could not lead to either of the rooms on the ground floor. It was probably a broom cupboard, but it seemed to be the only thing left in the house to investigate. Edwyn opened the door to see stone steps leading downwards, into the dark. The place had a cellar.
Edwyn Le Fay paused before going down into the cellar. It seemed to be even darker down there than the rest of the house. Since investigating the Dark House in Lancashire Edwyn had become a little nervous where total darkness was concerned. But he told himself that this was not the Dark House, and the light from his ever-burning taper was not about to dwindle.
He went carefully down the stairs. It did not look like anybody had bothered to come down into the cellar in a long time, as the place was damp and dirty and dusty.
There were a couple of tea chests in the cellar. Edwyn had a look inside them, but both were empty. That was disappointing.
There were some shelves on one wall. Damp had caused the wood to bend slightly. There were what looked like mouse droppings on the shelves, and a couple of cobwebs hanging from them. There was a screwdriver on the shelves, but the metal part was covered with rust. That was the only item on the shelves.
Edwyn examined the floor. He had hoped that, perhaps, to find traces of mystical markings either chalked or painted onto the floor, as proof that some wizard had once lived in the house. But, if there had ever been some pentagram drawn on the floor, all trace of it had worn away.
There was nothing in the cellar. But Edwyn Le Fay sensed something; something was making the hair on the back of his neck stand up one end. Yet he had failed to detect any Magick with his mythometer. Had there been some spell or Magickal item down there then he should have felt it.
He poked around the cellar for a good quarter of an hour, tapping on the walls, looking for secret doors. He didn’t find any. But that did not mean that there weren’t any there. Perhaps they were hidden so well that he simply could not find them. There had to be something here. If Edward Lang had not been hanged, if his spellbooks had not been burned, then where were they? If somebody else had found them he was sure that he would have heard some legend relating to that fact.
Of course, in his heart of hearts, he knew that it was likely that they had been found a long time ago, if this was actually the house where Edward Lang had once lived. He only had the old man’s word for that. The old man could have lied to him. Edwyn realised that he did not even know who that strange little man was.
Edwyn wanted to believe that Edwyn Lang had resided here, and that things were hidden so well that he simply could not find them, yet. As to whether this was Lang’s house… well, Hickle might be many things, but he would not have risked lying to another wizard, as there are spells which can detect untruths; and Hickle, apart from being an artificer, was one of only a handful of people who knew all of the secrets which Blackchapel had to hide. But poor Edwyn Le Fay did not know that.
“I wonder if there is an attic?” Edwyn suddenly said out loud. It would be one more place that he could search, before having to give up and admit defeat. He resolved to go and look straight away.
Edwyn Le Fay climbed up the stone steps out of the cellar. He had found nothing yet. But any wizard worth his salt knew that did not mean that nothing was there. All wizards were aware of things like secret passages and doors – although Edwyn did not know where, in such a small house, such secrets could be hidden. But perhaps something had been hidden under the floorboards? He had hidden the Book of Black Earth under his floorboards. Perhaps Lang had done the same. If he did not find anything in the attic – if the place had an attic – then he would go and get some tools and get the floorboards up.
Edwyn suddenly had a vision of rats eating away at Edward Lang’s grimoires. Edwyn hoped that if Lang had hidden his old spellbooks in such a manner that he had wrapped them up well first. He hated the idea of undiscovered spellbooks being nibbled away by rats.
Edwyn Le Fay, thinking that he was alone in the house, was not paying all that much attention to the world around him. He walked through the doorway leading out from the cellar and turned left, to see a man standing in the hallway in front of him. Unfortunately for Edwyn, though, Edwyn did not see the other man, the one standing behind him.
The man who Edwyn saw in front of him was the same height as Edwyn, but significantly broader. He was unshaven, and wearing the sort of ragged clothes which marked him out as being a denizen of Blackchapel. He was holding a blackjack in his right hand.
Edwyn stopped in shock, as the man grinned at him.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Edwyn Le Fay.” the man sneered. The other man – the one behind Le Fay – did not say anything at all.
“Who are you?” Edwyn asked. “What do you want with me?” Edwyn had never seen this man before in his life, and the wizard did not know how this thug knew his name. Edwyn Le Fay did not consider how this man might have known that he was in this house in Blackchapel. Edwyn was far more concerned about the weapon which the man was holding.
“Why, to sell you to De Ville.” the man in front of the wizard said, and smirked. “I bet that he will pay a lot more than ten pounds to get hold of you.”
“What?” Edwyn Le Fay, suspecting that he was in more than a little trouble, raised his hands, ready to cast a spell. But it was all too late. The man standing behind Edwyn Le Fay swung his club at the back of Le Fay’s head, and the wizard’s world dissolved into oblivion.