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.


4. The Search Begins

It was the next morning and Jack was filling out the logbooks, yawning as he did so. He had barely slept last night, the events of the day keeping him awake.

The Guard at the cells had disappeared when they got to the entrance, probably off dealing with an unruly prisoner. By some miracle, he had left the door unlocked and the two slipped out unseen. They made it back to the dining hall before anyone had noticed they had gone.


Jack went to dip his quill in the ink, but accidentally knocked the bottle over instead. He groaned as the black ink poured over the desk, staining it and running over the edge onto the floor. Hastily, he picked the logbook up before the ink could stain the cover and carried it over to a spare desk. A supervising Scholar tutted as he passed Jack’s messy station.

“What’s wrong with you, Jack?” she asked. “You’ve barely done any work this morning and now you’ve spilled ink everywhere.”

“Sorry, Scholar Davis,” replied Jack before heading off to find a cloth to soak up the ink.

 “Crick’s popped it,” a voice said behind him. Two apprentices were gossiping in the corridor. “Pa says the old mole was mad and the stress brought on a heart attack.”

Jack’s mouth dropped. He could barely believe it – Master Crick hadn’t seemed that bad yesterday! But that wasn’t his only worry. The mind was cruel and he knew that when Emily discovered the volatile news her mind would be the unforgiving beast he knew it was.

What he was most afraid of though, was the heartfelt sobs she would cry out and the endless blame she would haul onto her small shoulders. He dreaded news being thrown around like a tennis ball, knowing how highly she thought of Master Crick. Jack carefully put his logbook on the shelf and went off to find Emily.



Soap suds danced around Emily’s elbows. The ever-growing pile of dishes was teetering precariously beside her. She had been caught eating the strawberries she was supposed to be slicing for one of the Masters and had been placed on washing up as a punishment. Emily often ended up doing the washing up, as she was often in trouble for something or other. If it wasn’t stealing strawberries, then it was dipping her finger in the cake mix or telling another acolyte to stick a carrot somewhere unspeakable. But she was getting very good at scrubbing porridge oats from bowls.


            Emily turned to see who had called her but no one was hurrying towards her with dirty pots or glaring at her angrily. She must have imagined it. Emily shrugged and went back to scouring mush off a bowl with yellow flowers on it.


            Her head shot up as she heard her name again. This time she saw Jack half hidden behind the scullery door, beckoning her.


“What are you doing here, Jack?” Emily hissed.

 She was glad to see him but it wasn’t like him to ditch chores. And if anyone saw him, they would both be in trouble.

 As she drew closer, she saw a look in his eye that sparked worry in her heart. The last time he had looked like this, he had just told his father about an injured bird that Emily had been looking after.

            Emily had found it lying on the limestone floor by a smashed window while wondering around the Library at night (as she often did when she couldn’t sleep). She had kept it in a rag-filled box in a storeroom that nobody used and nursed it back to health, skipping chores and lessons to do so. When Jack had inevitably asked where Emily kept disappearing off to, Emily had shown him the injured creature. A few days later, Master Carter had taken the bird away and ‘put it out of its misery.’

            “I thought my father could help!” Jack had protested when Emily confronted him. “He is the Master of Medicine, after all.” Emily hadn’t spoken to him for a month and she still wasn’t entirely sure she had forgiven him. He was behaving the same way now and it filled Emily with dread.

            “What is it?” she asked.

“I need to talk to you,” he said simply. Checking that no one was watching her, Emily nodded and slipped out after him.


            Jack led her down the quiet corridor, not saying anything. Where is he taking me? Emily wondered. This isn’t like him at all.

            Suddenly Jack stopped and pulled open a small door in the wall. Emily peered inside. It was a broom cupboard. Emily stared at him.

            “Jack, I’m not going in there until you tell me what is going on,” she told him.

            “I don’t want to be overheard,” was his only reply. Emily sighed and reluctantly entered the broom cupboard.


            It was small and dark inside. Emily could feel broom handles digging uncomfortably in her back and could only make out Jack’s face by the light that seeped through the cracks in the door.

            “Now will you tell me what’s going on?” Emily hissed at him. “What’s so important that you had to abandon your chores and drag me in here to tell me?” Jack took a few deep, steadying breaths and said, “Master Crick died last night.”

Emily’s heart skipped a beat. She must have misheard him. It couldn’t be true – Master Crick couldn’t be…

            “- talking about it during chores. I thought you’d want to know.” Jack was rambling on about something, Emily wasn’t paying attention. Hot, wet tears began to slip down her cheeks and she was thankful that Jack couldn’t see them in her dark.


              “How- how did he die?” she managed to choke out.

            “They’re saying it was a heart attack.”

            “But you said he’d be fine, you said he’d be fine…” The tears were flowing fast and free now and she didn’t care if Jack saw.

            “I’m sorry,” Jack murmured, resting a hand awkwardly on her shoulder. “I thought he would be fine but I was wrong. My father’s Master of Medicine, not me.”


            For a few moments, all that could be heard was Emily’s shaking sobs. She thought about when she had first met Master Crick. She had been assigned to the Tunnels as punishment for something or other and had been dreading working with the ‘crazy old Masters’ who had been left with the other things no one wanted. At first, she had been afraid of the wizened old man with more hair on his chin than on his head. But soon she learned that his grey eyes possessed a twinkle of mischief that matched her own.

            When Scholar Higgins had come looking for her after she skipped class, Master Crick had lied for her without a second thought. When she was crying because someone had called her names, Master Crick had silently slipped her sweets. When she had been tired because she hadn’t slept that night, Master Crick had let her sleep instead of doing her chores.

            Despite his age, Crick had never seemed fragile. Even when badly injured, it was inconceivable to think that something like a heart attack would kill him. But if it wasn’t a heart attack…

            “Maybe he was killed.”

              It took Jack a moment to process what she had said.


            “Maybe Master Crick didn’t die of a heart attack, maybe someone killed him?”

            “Emily, you’re being ridiculous,” Jack told her. She tried to interrupt but he was quicker. “Master Crick was old, probably senile and he died from a heart attack. No one killed him and even if they did they probably had good reason. And speaking of that, I think we should show my father the note Crick gave us.”


            Emily stared at him in horror. “No way!”

            “Emily, listen-”

            “No, you listen, Jack. The last thing Master Crick asked of me was to find Scholar Young and give him that note. After everything he’s done for me it’s the least I can do.” Jack opened his mouth to respond but the glare in Emily’s eye told him there was no arguing with her.

            “Fine,” he sighed. “We’ll try and find Scholar Young and give him the note. But if we can’t find him then we hand the note over to my father, agreed?”


Reluctantly, Emily nodded.



            Three days later, they were still no closer to finding Scholar Young. It didn’t help that all Emily’s spare time had been spent in the kitchen, punishment for ditching chores to talk with Jack. He, of course, hadn’t been punished for skipping chores – They hadn’t even noticed he had gone.

Emily heard somebody or something coming down the long corridor. She decided to ignore it and continue washing the tea stained saucer. The noise began to get louder and Emily started to wander who it was. She shook her head and carried on with the cup in her hand and plunged the peach cloth into the water.

But the creaking in the corridor began to get closer and closer. Emily stopped for a second. She began to slowly creep to the door, trying to get better sound. The corridor was so long and the acoustics were awful so it seemed to go on forever. Maybe it was just the door. Emily began to think that it was somebody coming to check on her and would find her slacking. She hesitated.

Who was it? She put her ear up against the cold wall. The sound was still coming ever closer. The bronze handle twitched and Emily quickly, she ran back and pretended that she had been working the whole time. The door began to move. It was in slow motion as the hinges began to swing into the wall. She could see a hand on the handle. The hand was quite large and had a number of freckles dotted around its fingers.

It was Jack. Emily sighed. Why had she been so scared? He had an agitated look on his face. Emily sometimes wondered if that was just his normal face. She carefully made her way towards him with an excited feeling in her stomach.


            “Did you find anything?” she asked. Jack shook his head.

“I’ll check the log books again but I don’t think there’s much point,” Jack sighed. He was bored of searching. He wished that Emily was as well, but considering her determined attitude, Jack thought not.

“I’ll try and find a time when I can sneak down to the tunnels – maybe he works down there. It’ll be pretty hard, but I’ll try.” Jack looked at Emily. Was she thinking of breaking curfew?, Jack asked himself. But then he thought about the things that Scholar Young might be hiding. He realised it was all for the best.


The next day, Jack had chores once more. He was exhausted and waiting for Emily to meet him in the log room. He got the note out of his pocket. He couldn’t understand it.

Seconds late, Emily burst through the door. She looked flustered and her hair was messy.

“I’m here,” she half yelled. Her eyes searched the room until they settled on Jack. She ran towards him and leant against the shelves.

“So, have you found anything?” Emily asked.

“No. I’m just trying to figure out what this message means,” Jack replied. Emily took a glance at the note. “It doesn’t make sense, it keeps going on about magic and darkness,” Jack huffed while his cheeks began to go red. 

“It can’t be talking about magic as there’s no such thing!”

Emily stopped to think for a moment, about if magic was truly real, like the type of magic that made things float across the room.  And cast spells. The long moment of silence was interrupted by Emily’s voice

“If you’ve got an idea then please be quiet,” Emily said sarcastically while she gave Jack a glare. Jack was still wondering of magic was real. “Well come on then spit it out!” Emily shouted.

“Do you think there’s such a thing as…?” Emily paused. Jack was listening intently. “Do you think there’s such a thing as magic,” Emily finished.

Jack thought long and hard and wondered if it was anything to do with Master Crick’s death.

“If there was such a thing as magic then why isn’t it used?” Emily asked.

 “I don’t know. Maybe it’s banned or something.” Jack said.

Emily couldn’t sleep. She lay in her bed, eyes wide open. The dormitory was pitch black. Deathly silence surrounded her. She didn’t know what the time was because of the room’s darkness. She was hot and tired. She wiped some sweat from her forehead and pressed her hand against the wooden headboard, trying to cool herself.

She had tried many times counting sheep, it was no use. Peering through the window, the light seeped in. Where could Scholar Young be? This search to find him is taking ages.

The only way to get day to come quicker was to get out of bed before time. Slowly she lifted the quilt over and grabbed her warm robes. It was hard not to creak the ancient floors of the dormitory. She had to walk on her tiptoes to not wake the girl to her right.

The dormitory door was old. It had been painted over and over again. It looked like some of the previous and maybe some of the current kids had tried to chip bits off of the door and also tried to engrave their names in it. The doors hinges were creaky and rusty. It looked like something out of a scrapyard. It was horrible but just about bearable although, in this instance, it felt like a strong castle wall, stopping her from leaving, yet, leaving itself open.

She slipped out of the room and darted to the Tunnels, keeping hidden in the shadows.

The Tunnels were a network of corridors underneath the library. It was here where the First Scholars put their first books of knowledge. The walls were dimly lit with blazing torches in iron holders built into the walls. The Tunnels were forbidden to visitors, Acolytes (unless their chores were to help down there) and initiates. It was a bad omen to be sent down to work down in the Tunnels, if you were, you would be considered useless. The Acolytes were pardoned because of their chores.

Not only were the tunnels a maze, the bookshelves inside of them were mazes as well! The bookshelves were nothing like the ones upstairs. They were old, crumbly, and falling apart. Wherever you looked, there was darkness. Whenever you felt the ancient walls, they crumbled away in your hand. Whenever you listened, you could hear the Monsters roaring and the crazy old people snoring loudly in their beds.

Eventually, she found a small, familiar room. Inside, the room was dimly lit with gas lamps. The Scholar’s desks were made of polished oak and had shiny, reflective brass handles on. The room looked amazingly smart.


Still in awe, Emily searched the desks. She had to feel around the room as it was badly lit. For a moment Emily thought she had come to the wrong room, she saw a couple of books that she didn’t know of but still recognised one or two of them. She knew that if she Scholar Young worked in the Tunnels, she would find his desk here...

She was sure that this was the room so now she had to look for Young’s desk. Most of the desks were filled with books. Where is his desk?, she thought, standing back and taking a look at the room in front of her? There were about twenty desks.

She had now been out of the dormitory for half an hour. Luckily the third desk she searched was Scholar Young’s. The desk was filled with many books. Under the pile she saw his timetable all scrunched up. She reached for her pocket and grabbed a piece of paper, and using Young’s quill and ink he had left, she copied it down.



            Jack was woken suddenly by a hand covering his mouth. His eyes shot open in alarm – only to find Emily standing over him. Slowly, she lifted her hand from his mouth and beckoned him. Rolling his eyes, Jack swung himself out of bed and followed her out the door.

            “What are you doing here, Emily?” Jack hissed furiously. “It’s the middle of the night!”

            “I know, I’m sorry,” Emily replied, even though Jack knew she wasn’t. “But I couldn’t wait until morning. I had to show you this.” Emily handed him a crumpled sheet of paper.

            “What is this?” he asked, scanning the sheet. Emily grinned at him.

            “It’s a copy of Scholar Young’s timetable.”


            It took Jack a few moments to process what she had said.

“Where-” he began loudly. A boy in the dormitory gave a mighty snore and both Jack and Emily froze, waiting to see if anyone would wake and discover them. When it was safe, he continued, “Where did you find this?”

            “In the Tunnels,” Emily jabbered. “I couldn’t sleep so I went down there to have a look around.” Jack tried to interrupt her to tell her how stupid and dangerous that was, but Emily was too continued before he could open his mouth. “Listen, I want to give Scholar Young the note tomorrow. We can go during dinner when no one will miss us.”


            For a moment, Jack debated saying no, but that determined glint in his best friend’s eye told him there was no way he could dissuade her from this crazy plan. So he nodded absent-mindedly, already thinking of his comfortable bed and hoping to get a few more hours of sleep before dawn.

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