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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5. Scholar Young

The morning had dawned grey and cloudy and Jack was once again seated at his desk with a logbook in front of him. He absentmindedly chewed the end of his quill, listening to the pitter-patter of rain on the windows, the scratching of quills and the ticking of the clock. He was due to meet Emily at the entrance to the Tunnels in twenty minutes so he would need to leave now if he was to get there on time. He took a few deep breaths. He knew what he had to do (he had rehearsed it many times in his head), but he was not accustomed to lying to Scholars. He stood hesitantly and approached the Scholar who was supposed to be watching over them.

            Scholar Davis was a thin, wisp of a woman with steel grey hair pulled back into a tight bun. Once a Scholar of the stars, Scholar Davis was now approaching the age where a Scholars wits tended to fail. Thankfully she had been spared the Tunnels, unlike many at her time of life. Instead, she had been sent to supervise the Acolytes. When people first met her, they were often scared of her ferocious appearance, but she only had to smile and wish you good morning with her bell-like voice for you to see the warmth that lurked beneath.

            Jack stood in front of her desk and cleared his throat. Scholar Davis looked up and smiled.

            “What is it, Jack,” she asked in that tinkling voice of hers. Jack shifted his feet nervously.

            “My father asked me to meet him in his quarters this morning.”

            “That’s strange,” Scholar Davis frowned. “I haven’t received a note from him excusing you.”

            “I left it in my room by accident,” Jack lied quickly. Davis was studying him intently and some of the other Acolytes had started to watch. “I need to go now if I’m to make it on time,” Jack told her. After a tense few seconds, the Scholar smiled again and nodded her head.

            “Of course, Jack. Just make sure to bring me the note tomorrow.” Jack said he would and hurried from the room, breathing a sigh of relief. He didn’t need to worry about producing a note for the next morning; Davis would have forgotten about it by then.

 

            Jack hadn’t anticipated having to lie again, but he was wrong.

            Half way across the marble floor of the Atrium where Master Crick had been taken into custody (had it only been a week ago?), a voice shouted across to him.

“Hey, stop right there! You’re not supposed to be here.” Jack turned in alarm to see two Guards marching towards him at an alarming pace. Jack gulped.

“My father asked me to meet him in his quarters,” he answered with a confidence that surprised him. “So you better let me go or my father will want to know why I’m late.”

“And what position is your father in to summon you during chores?” one Guard argued whilst giving a sarcastic smirk.

“He’s Master of Medicine on the Council, just in the position that could get you fired so I suggest you move out my way.” The Guards gaped at him but didn’t stop him as Jack strutted past, giving them a smile as he did so.

What has gotten into me? Jack wondered. Lying and back chatting a guard in the same day! Emily must be rubbing off on me.

 

            Jack waited at the entrance to the Tunnels, yawning and hoping that no more Guards would come across him. Silently, he cursed Emily both for her lateness and for waking him up in the middle of the night. Peering through the dark doorway, Jack could already see the hundreds of bookshelves that displayed their books with torn out pages and broken spines. How did anyone ever find anything down there in that chaos? He was just about to take a closer look when Emily came trotting up behind him, a scarlet stain down her front.

“How come you got here so quickly?” Emily asked upon seeing him.

“Well it wasn’t easy. I ran into some Guards,” Jack replied. Emily looked at him in alarm.

“What did you say to them?”

“I told them my Father would get them fired if they didn’t let me in,” Jack sniggered. “Anyway, why are you late?”

“It was hell getting out of the kitchens,” said Emily, wiping the stain on her tunic. In the dark, it almost looked like blood. “The Scholars wouldn’t take their eyes off me and they just kept giving me jobs! ‘Wash this, Emily… Chop that, Emily… Mop the floor Emily…’” Jack could sense her going into a rant and knew that once she properly got going, nothing could stop her.  

“What about the stain on your tunic?” he interrupted quickly. Emily looked down at herself.

“Ah,” she said. “That. Well eventually they gave me a tray of half-filled wine goblets that some Master ordered last night so I spilled them on accident and the let me leave to go change my tunic. The only problem is now I have to walk around in this manky thing.” Emily finished her tale with a sigh.

“Well it’s not the worst that could’ve happened, I guess.” Jack said with a chuckle. Emily glared at him.

“Let’s go,” she said begrudgingly.

 

The bookcases in the Tunnels were broken down and torn apart from book to book, each shelf slanting down to the next one like a secret contraption. Gaslights hung from the wall glooming with a yellow touch, light spreading across the wall until the next light. Jack had never been down there before and felt small and caged in the narrow tunnels. Emily led them along the passage that she had followed the previous night, her tattered sandals tapping the floor, causing continuous echoes to bounce off the stone walls, until they reached the small room where Scholar Young’s desk was.

            Flickering light seeped through the cracks in the ramshackle wooden door, casting demonic shadows all around. They heard voices of men they did not know echoing in the room beyond. The two children glanced at each other. It hadn’t occurred to either of them that Scholar Young might not be alone when they found him. Slowly, they crept towards the door to see what they could hear.

            Suddenly the door swung open with a bang, almost knocking Emily to the floor. Jack caught her just in time and they both stared up at the figure silhouetted impressively in the yellow light. No one moved. Then another figure emerged from the room and whispered in the first figure’s ear. The first figure nodded and swept off down the tunnel and out of sight.

            Now her eyes had adjusted to the light, Emily could make out the details of the man in front of her – and he was unlike anyone she had ever seen.

 

            He appeared to be in his mid-twenties, though it was hard to tell due to the bone white hair that blended into his very pale skin. He was a little taller than Jack and was dressed in immaculate robes of nut brown wool. Perfectly trimmed nails graced the ends of long spider-like fingers that were tapping agitatedly against his leg. But the most striking thing about him were his eyes. They were a pale pink with streaks of white lightning and edged with defiance

            “Who are you? Why are you here?” he said with a quiet, mysterious voice.

            “Are you… Are you Scholar Young?” Emily asked timidly.

            “Who are you and why are you here?” the man repeated.

            “My name is Emily and-”

            “Emily?” Something seemed to spark in the man’s eyes. “Master Crick spoke very highly of you.” Emily blushed. The man turned his attention to Jack. “And what about your friend?”

            “I’m Jack. Jack Carter,” Jack piped up, extending a hand. The man didn’t take it.

            “Carter? Not any relation to Harold Carter, are you?” he asked sharply.

            “He’s my father,” nodded Jack.

“And what business do you two have with me?

            Emily opened her mouth to speak but a draft blew down the tunnel, raising the hairs on the back of her neck. What if something, or someone else is down in the tunnels with us, listening to our conversation, our every word, she thought.

“Do you think we could go in there?” Emily whispered, pointing to the room behind the man. “Someone could be hiding in the shadows out here, listening to us. And I don’t think it would go very well if me and Jack were caught down here.” The man tutted quietly but stepped aside to allow them in. When he had closed the door tightly, he asked them again, “What do you want?” Emily opened her mouth again but Jack interrupted her.

“First we need to know, are you Scholar Young?” For a tense moment, there was silence. And then the man nodded.

  “Yes, of course,” Scholar Young said wearily.

 

Emily grinned at Jack who smiled back at her. They both watched Scholar Young as Emily pulled out the note that Master Crick had given her. It was considerably crumpled  due to Emily and Jack passing it between themselves over the past few days, but the strange writing was still clear.

“We managed to sneak in to see Master Crick before he died,” Emily told him sadly. “He gave us this and told us to find you.”

 “Thank you,” Scholar Young said, still slightly suspicious. His pink, watery eyes gleamed as Emily gave him the note. As he scanned the page, his thin eyebrows drew closer and closer together in a frown. When he had finished, he let out a shuddering sigh. “Thank you for bringing this to me,” he said quietly. “Now I think it would be best if you leave. Can you find you own way out?”

Emily and Jack gaped at him. This was not what they had expected. It was clear that both Jack and Emily wanted the same thing.

“What was in that note?” Jack barked. Emily tugged at her tangled hair impatiently as she waited for an answer.

“Nothing,” answered Scholar Young. “Just a goodbye from an old friend.”

“No one writes a ‘goodbye’ in code,” scoffed Jack.

“What do you want?” Scholar Young muttered under his breath. Jack could see he was hiding something from them, and wanted to find out what.

“What are you hiding from us? I know you’re hiding something; I’ve seen that look a million times!” exclaimed Jack. Emily’s anger started to bubble. She needed to know!

“Just forget about it,” Scholar Young said, through gritted teeth. Emily couldn’t contain her anger anymore. It was only a matter of time before…

“No! You have to tell us!” Emily protested, glaring at him angrily. Her stare was quite intimidating.  Jack and Scholar Young were surprised by Emily’s sudden outburst. I’m glad she’s my friend thought Jack. She’d be a nightmare if I got on her bad side.

 

“Anyway, it’s no use lying about it because I’ve worked out what some of the note means,” said Jack. “It’s full of riddles, but it talks about magic; light and dark, but I’d need help figuring out the rest.” I’m so confused, it just doesn’t make any sense, Jack thought. The Scholar glanced at him in surprise. His pale, bony hands shook as he straightened out the creases in the piece of parchment. 

“Master Crick and I used to write and create codes to pass important information to one another. We invented this code to be unbreakable,” replied Scholar Young. Jack noticed one of the candles had suddenly blown out. If he kept down this road, his life might be snuffed out as quickly as that candle. He tried to push that unpleasant thought to the back of his mind.

            “So can you at least tell us what it means?” asked Emily. “It’s the only reason we came down here.”

            “I’m afraid I can’t tell you, you’re just too young to understand,” stated Scholar Young. “There’s no telling what trouble I’d be in, let alone you.”

            “It can’t be any worse than the trouble we would be in for coming down here!” Jack pointed out.

“I won’t be able to sleep if you don’t, and when I don’t sleep, I get grumpy, and believe me, you don’t want to see me grumpy!” shouted Emily. Scholar Young looked offended by her short tongue.

“I thought they taught you better than this,” he sighed. I let my temper get the better of me. Emily thought. I can’t let that happen again.

“Please tell me,” Emily pleaded. “I just want to know.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t let that happen,” Scholar Young repeated. “If the secret got out, you could get hurt, it’s just too dangerous,” explained Scholar Young.

            “Please tell us, we need to know,” insisted Jack. “I can’t bear the thought of leaving here without an answer.”

            “Okay then, but if I tell you, you have to swear that you will never tell anybody, ever,” said Scholar Young, finally buckling.

            “We promise,” Jack and Emily agreed.

            “What do you want to know first?” sighed the Scholar, already beginning to regret his decision.

            “Just tell us everything!” Emily exclaimed impatiently.

            “Okay then,” the Scholar reluctantly began to explain. “Master Crick, the Master of tunnels died six days ago.”

            “We know that,” Jack interrupted rudely, though Emily had gone strangely quiet.

            “Let me explain,” Scholar Young began once more. “Many people believe that Master Crick died of a heart attack, but it was poison, he was murdered.

 

“Master Crick came dangerously close to finding and revealing a secret. The evidence was in the book that was burnt, supposedly by him, but it indeed was somebody else.”

            “Who?” Jack inquired.

            “I’m coming to that,” Scholar assured him. “Anyway, someone managed to find a way to frame him for setting fire to the book and then poisoned him to keep him from exposing the secret.”

            “How did someone manage to poison him?” Emily asked.

            “They had access to the cells and slipped a poison called Powder of Skettle into his food.”

            “Who would be so evil as to do something like that?” Jack gasped. His voice echoed around the tunnel’s cold, hard walls. He couldn’t believe it. Master Crick had been murdered by someone in the Library!

            “Jack, I’m not sure you’re ready for this,” Scholar Young advised. A candle flickered nearby.

            “I want to know, please,” begged Jack. He couldn’t wait any longer.

            “Okay then if you’re sure, but believe me, you won’t like it,” the Scholar warned. “The man who killed Tiberius Crick, and burnt all of the evidence, was your father, Harold Carter.”

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