“The stars, that nature hung in heaven, and filled their lamps with everlasting oil, give due light to the misled and lonely traveller.”
House of Dark Lanterns, part one.Written and illustrated by Andy Paciorek
The hammer fell on the last sale of the day at the Kendal & District Auction House and as proceedings drew to close and unsuccessful bidders and onlookers filed for the doors, those who’d secured their bids remained to finalise the details of their purchases. Carl Fieldman remained behind, though he was of the former rather than latter group, having been outbid on his efforts to buy a Regency bronze table lamp.
He was friends with the auctioneer and had decided to wander over for a quick chat before heading home. Seeing him, Dewson, the auctioneer, gave a smile.
Carl replied with no petulance, “Not for you, I bid more for that lamp than it was worth and I was still outbid.”
“Oh, Carl, you know as well as I that an object is worth whatever two or more people bid for it, and if it’s any consolation that solid oak Victorian writing table we had in today and would’ve expected to fly barely crawled to its bottom estimate!”
He continued, “Actually, you could have done us a favour and bid a bit more. Money is of no consequence to your rival bidder and once he sets his mind on something he’ll obtain it, no matter the cost. Anyway, shh, speak of the devil, here he is.”
Carl looked up to see a tall well-groomed man approaching. In his hand he carried a knobbly blackthorn cane of the type sometimes referred to as a shillelagh, but what perhaps would be more correctly termed a bata. Several steps behind him was a rough-looking man with thick side-burns and eyebrows and who was almost as wide as he was tall, solidly built not fat.
“Ah, Mister Dewson and now to business” he said with a smile and extending his hand to shake that of the auctioneer, “Cash, fine I trust?”
“As always, Mr Mordrake,” replied Dewson politely.
The man Mordrake gestured to the squat man behind him, “Mr Soulby, if you will,” and with a plump envelope, containing more than the four thousand, three hundred pounds the item settled on, Misters Soulby and Dewson moved away to conclude the exchange.
Standing alone together, Mordrake nodded in polite greeting to Carl. Carl spoke, “Congratulations, it’s a nice piece. You got a bargain.”
Mordrake looked at Carl curiously, then an expression of recognition passed his face as he realised Carl was his opponent bidder.
“I did think I’d pick it up nearer the three and a half mark, but it is a nice piece, the curious embellishment of the figures of a satyr and a nymph on the base may not be to everyone’s taste but it sets it apart as an interesting object. Together with the other of its pair, which I do happen to already own, I’d estimate the collective value of the pair at perhaps more than ten or even eleven thousand pounds on a good day. Not that I’d resell.”
With that comment, Carl was assured that despite money being no object, Mr Mordrake was indeed cannily aware of his purchasing.
Mordrake thrust out his hand in greeting, a firm dry shake.
“Lucien Mordrake at your service and I take it sir, that you are a fellow Luciferian?”