The Library

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  • Published: 27 Feb 2018
  • Updated: 27 Feb 2018
  • Status: Complete
The Great Library is over a thousand years old and has grown to the size of a city.

Jack is the youngest son of Master Carter, a member of the Council of Scholars.
Emily is an orphan without a penny to her name.
Both are Acolytes in the Great Library.

When a revered Master burns a book – a crime punishable by death – Jack and Emily are thrust into a world below the Library that they never knew existed. But even as they learn life changing secrets and work together to uncover the truth, their friendship is tested in ways they never imagined.

In the Library, knowledge is power and the powerful control it.

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2. Burning a Book

The old history room, which had once been covered in pristine white paint, had now developed into a watery mess. Emily was sat at the back of the class waiting impatiently for Jack. Again.

Being late was the only the Emily never got in trouble for. She always turned up early for everything because she always early leaving everything. Unfortunately that meant she was often waiting for Jack, who seemed to do the complete opposite.

As Jack stumbled through the open doorway, Emily waved him over.

“Where have you been?” she hissed. Jack ignored her.

“I have to tell you something,” he said.

“What?” concern flashed in Emily’s eyes. Jack was rarely so agitated.

“I-”

             “Emily Hart, we are exercising our minds not our mouths,” the History Scholar’s voice boomed over the class.

“But everyone else was talking!” Emily protested.

“Quiet, Emily, or do you wish to be sent to Master Dockerty for the fourth time this week?” The pockmarked girl from breakfast sniggered and Emily shut her mouth, fuming.

 

Scholar Higgins had been teaching Acolytes for decades. It was often hard to even dream that he had been an Acolyte himself. He had often wished to become a Master Scholar but had never been able to pass the exams. At fifty-two, he was unlikely to ever achieve his dream. He took out his frustration on the Acolytes, delighting in giving them excruciatingly boring lessons and impossible homework.

“After Master Rengyr’s rousing sermon today,” said Scholar Higgins, “I thought we would review the ‘Legend’ one more time.” The class groaned. Scholar Higgins smiled. “Now then,” he continued, clapping his hands together. “Who can tell me how the Legend starts?” A red headed boy called Peter raised his hand. Scholar Higgins nodded at him and the boy began to recite,

“When the Gods created the Lands, they gifted men the ability to learn and so it was the sacred duty of all men to learn and to pass on their learnings. However, as time passed, men forgot this and fell into ignorance…”

 

Jack couldn’t keep quiet any more. He turned to Emily and whispered, “I need to tell you something.” Emily turned to him, eyebrows raised. Normally it was her distracting him from the lesson, not the other way around. “What is it?” she asked. Jack took a deep breath and looked around to make sure no one was listening in. Peter was still reciting the legend:

“…a learned group of men, who had not forgotten the words of the Gods, began to write their knowledge down. As they wrote, they saw things they had never seen before and their knowledge grew. These were the first Scholars.”

Jack leaned in close to Emily and told her about the altered logbook.

“But that’s against the law,” Emily hissed

“I know!” Jack snapped, drawing a glance from the Acolyte nearby. “I know,” he repeated more quietly. “But what do you think?” Emily thought for a moment, watching Peter as he worked over the Legend.

 

“But as the Scholars grew in wisdom, fear and superstition in the surrounding Lands also grew. The local peasants could not comprehend the great intellect of the Scholars and accused them of magic and heresy against the Gods. To save their work and themselves from being burnt, the Scholars retreated into secret tunnels and caves that were known only to them.”

 

        “You probably just miscounted,” Emily told Jack. “Why would anyone even want to change the logbooks? It doesn’t make sense.”

“I suppose so,” muttered Jack as Peter finished the Legend:

“When the Scholars wisdom and knowledge was finally recognised as an act of worship to the Gods rather than an act of heresy, they built a Great Library upon the tunnels that had given them sanctuary, so that all might share their knowledge.”

Peter sat down and Scholar Higgins began to write on the black board.

 

“Anyway,” Emily muttered, “I’ve got something to tell you too. When I was in the kitchens I heard Cook complaining that she didn’t get any sleep last night because the Council of Scholars wanted food for a secret meeting!”

“Do you think it had anything to do with the altered logbook?” Jack asked. This was not the reaction Emily had been expecting.

“Will you shut up about that stupid book? You miscounted that’s all. Stop being so suspicious.”

 

Jack opened his mouth to shoot back an answer he hadn’t thought of yet, when suddenly a scream echoed so loud they felt a vibration through the ancient, wooden classroom floor. It was coming from the Atrium. The whole class shouted and rose from their seats in panic while Scholar Higgins tried to calm them down. When the Acolytes were back in their seats, he hurried from the classroom to see what was wrong. So they sat still with their minds racing and their hearts pumping.

Finally, Emily couldn’t take it anymore. She stood and walked to the door. Jack grabbed her arm.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m not just going to sit here and wait for someone to come and tell us what to do. I’m going to see what’s happening.” The whole class watched as Emily walked from the room. Jack groaned, picked up his bags and followed her. The rest of the Acolytes weren’t far behind.

 

They ran as fast as the Library rules would let them. They chased through the corridor hearing the clacks of their sandals across the marble floor. More feet joined them as Scholars, Masters, Apprentices and Guards headed in the same direction

 

Emily and Jack looked about them in wonder. Nothing like this had ever happened before.

“Jack, do you have any idea what is going on?” asked Emily in a worried voice.

“No.” said Jack, equally shocked.

“I heard that one of the Moles has gone bonkers!” yelled a passing Apprentice as he walked past them and off into the distance.

“Wait, what did you say?” Emily yelled back. But the boy was out of view before they could bat an eyelid. Emily had frozen in place, ignoring the people pushing past her. Jack shouted her name and she snapped back into reality and began to walk faster.

The crowd burst through the gold-framed doors of the Atrium and skidded to a halt. The glass dome roof above, bended beams of sunshine to create a glow that dug into every corner of the cavernous hall. Black mosaic tiles were spread around the floor, polished so that they reflected the feet of those who walked upon them. Desks were slotted in between giant marble pillars that were placed around the outer ring of the room, giving the roof the extra support it needed. All else was obscured by a mass of people watching something in the centre of the Atrium. Emily pushed her way to the front of the crowd and Jack wormed his way after her. In the centre of the room was Tiberius Crick, the Master of the Tunnels.

Tall, muscular guards stood around him like knights, scary and intimidating. They were pointing spears threateningly at Master Crick. The old Master shook in a wild rage, screaming with a power his thin body would not have suggested.

“…come here armed to stop an old man with a book! Why are you so afraid?”

 

Emily was afraid. She had known Master Crick for a long time; she had worked with him in the Tunnels before she was assigned to the kitchens. He had always been kind and calm with her, never angry no matter what she did and often sneaking her sweats when no one was looking. That man was no longer recognisable as the one in front of her. Emily clutched Jack’s arm, tears in her eyes.

“He’s going bonkers,” whispered a Scholar standing next to them.

“I know the truth!” Master Crick was shouting now. His sky blue eyes seemed to darken in his fury. “I have it here! In my hands!” From nowhere he pulled out an old leather book that was falling apart at the seams.  “You cannot hide it anymore! The Council has betrayed us all and I will keep quiet no longer!” Master Crick looked and sounded as if he was about to boil over and explode with pure anger. The Guards began to close in on him and rather than backing away, Master Crick charged at them.

 

Suddenly, Master Rengyr was there. It was as if he had appeared from out of a puff of smoke. One second he wasn’t there but the next he was. All Jack had done was blink and he was there. Rengyr approached the old Master but it just made matters worse. Master Crick slowly raised a bony finger at him and began to scream, “Traitor! Traitor!”

“Calm down, Tiberius,” said Master Rengyr. “You are frightening the children.”

 

            Master Crick looked around the crowd, seeing the frightened faces for the first time. “Not all of you are scared of me, are you? I’m not that scary, am I?” asked Master Crick in a funny voice. Everyone looked at the Master in pity with their faces in despair. As the old man looked around at the children, searching desperately for an answer, his eyes rested briefly on Emily. Then he turned away.

“If I scare them, it does not matter,” he told Rengyr. “They will understand one day. I do this to protect them from the likes of you.” And he spat in the Rengyr’s face. Rengyr’s eyes had a new, stern look as he stared out Crick. Rengyr gave a signal and the Guards swarmed.

 

Master Crick realised too late what was happening, and began to run away, but Master Rengyr now had a firm grip on one of Master Crick’s slightly shrivelled hands. Then the Guards blocked the two Masters from view. A cry of pain reverberated around the Atrium and chaos erupted. People began to scream and run once more, this time trying to escape the madness. Emily tried to rush forward, to help her friend, but Jack held her back.

 

When the Guards finally parted, Master Crick was lying unconscious, Rengyr kneeling beside him and the book was burning, and red tongues of flame shimmered in the black of the marble floor.

 

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