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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7. A New Tunnel

It was one in the morning and the dormitory was inky black with darkness. Everyone was in a deep sleep apart from Emily. With everything that had been going on lately, she often found it hard to drift off to dreamland. It left her tired and irritable in the day – well more irritable than normal, anyway. But tonight, she wasn’t.  

She slowly and silently eased from underneath her warm bed sheets and crept out of bed, looking cautiously at everyone as she passed. She scrambled around for the doorknob. Feeling the cold metal she gently turned the knob, so not to wake anyone up, and opened the door.

Creeeaaaak!

She held her breath and looked around to see if anyone had woken up. Everyone was still sound asleep. She breathed a sigh of relief and tip- toed out of the dormitory.

Suddenly, she heard steps coming towards her, getting louder and louder as she searched frantically around her for a place to hide. She found a large bookcase and darted straight behind it. The footsteps passed and she sighed with relief. Phew, she thought. She poked her head out from behind it to see if anyone was there. The coast was clear.

“Emily Hart! Come here this instant!”

A bead of sweat ran down Emily’s forehead. She could recognise that voice from anywhere. It was Scholar Malone, or Scholar Moan, as Emily called her.

“I said this instant,” barked Scholar Malone. Emily reluctantly stepped out of the gloomy darkness into the dim light created by Scholar Malone’s rusty gas lamp. “You should not be out of bed at-” the severe woman glanced at her watch, “-one o’clock in the morning!”

“Shouldn’t you be in bed as well?” Emily retorted, knowing it was a mistake but unable to stop herself.

“Don’t backchat me, young lady! You wait until I tell Master Dockerty you were out of bed after curfew. I wouldn’t like to be in your shoes I can say.”

“But Scholar Malone…”

“No buts! You are always skiving of your duties and you think you can get away with it. You’re probably off to see some boy or other. Well let me tell you, no boy is worth the punishment you’ll get if I have my way. Now back to bed!”

            It was half an hour before Emily risked getting out of bed again, but luckily by this time, the danger had passed and Scholar Malone was gone.

 

The Atrium was bathed in shafts of moonlight, giving the room a surreal colour. In the dark, Emily felt around for the gloomy stairs leading to the Tunnels. After ten minutes of searching, she finally found the entrance to the underground maze; a long, dark, staircase winding deep into the ground. She walked cautiously, tripping over her own feet several times. For what seemed like forever, she climbed down, until the stairs finally ended.

Emily crept silently,  as low to the grimy stone floor as she could, a cold drop of slimy liquid dropped down the back of her neck and she had to stop herself from gasping loudly. She thought longingly about going back to her warm, cosy dormitory but no, she had to find those books. Master Crick had trusted her and she would not – could not – let him down. She was sure that the books were going to be in the Tunnels, she just knew it.

 

***

Jack had been waiting for Emily for over an hour and was beginning to wonder where she was. They had arranged to meet during the morning service so that they could search through the books in the Tunnels without having to skive off chores or lessons and hopefully their absence wouldn’t be noticed. The Scholars were running out of punishments for Emily when she misbehaved and Jack didn’t want to know what they would do if she got in trouble again so soon. Now, however, he was beginning to get annoyed. This is exactly like Emily, Jack thought, she is always late for everything.

With a sigh and a final glance around the corner, Jack tuned on his heal and headed into the Tunnels. He would have to start going through the books without her.

 

In the Tunnels it was pitch black; the gas lights didn’t come down this far and the torches hadn’t been lit this early in the morning. But the dark did not hinder his passage. He had been down to that small room in the Tunnels so often in the past few weeks that he could trace his way blindfolded. He had memorised every twist and turn, which was coming in very useful this morning.

As he rounded the final corner, a glimmer of light shone through the cracks in the door. Someone was in the room. If whoever it was found the note that Master Crick had written, or worse, their notes on everything they had found out about magic and the Council- the consequences didn’t bare thinking about.

Gingerly, Jack crept towards the door, slowly eased it open so he could see into the room… And saw Emily asleep at one of the desks, drooling onto yellowing parchment.

 

Jack swung the door open with a bang and Emily jerked awake. 

“When did you get here?” Jack interrogated. Emily rubbed her bloodshot eyes and peered at him hazily. “What time is it?” she mumbled, completely ignoring her friend.

“It’s six in the morning,” Jack exclaimed. “How long have you been here?”

“I dunno,” Emily groaned. “Two, maybe three? I couldn’t sleep.” Jack sighed and decided not to yell at his best friend. “Tell me you at least found something interesting,” he said instead. Emily shook her head morosely and closed the drool covered book. “Maybe we’ll make some progress now you’re here,” she told him and handed passed over a heavy tome from the teetering pile beside her.

Jack read every word, searching for clues on where to find the books Master Crick had died for. Emily, however, was only reading the first five sentences of each page, before deciding that there wasn’t anything useful and moving on. Both of them were bored and Emily’s contagious yawning wasn’t helping.

Emily shut her book with a thump and Jack was about to do the same when something caught his eye. “Emily,” he blurted, making her jump. “I think I’ve found something.” Emily quickly dropped the new book she had just picked up (which was remarkably thinner than the other ones), and looked at Jack with a smile on her face hoping she wouldn’t have to read any more scribbly handwriting. “What?” she asked. Jack pointed and Emily leaned over to look.  

In the top right hand corner of the page, someone had drawn a circle with a smaller circle inside it  - a bit like an eye - and a line cutting them both in half. “I know recognise it from somewhere,” Jack murmured, “but I can’t remember where.”

“I dunno,” Emily said, squinting at it. “It looks like graffiti to me. A doodle or something?”

“No, look,” Jack insisted. “Someone’s drawn that on carefully and deliberately. See?”

            “Well…”

            Suddenly, the door burst open and Scholar Young walked in. The pale man froze in surprise at the sight of the two children sitting there. Then he sighed and rolled his rose tinted eyes. “I wondered why the two of you weren’t at the service,” he said. “I should have known you would be down here.”

            “Did anyone else miss us,” asked Emily anxiously.

            “I don’t think so,” he reassured them. “But if you don’t want to be late for your chores then you had better go now.”

            “But we found something!” Jack exclaimed.

            “We might have found something,” Emily corrected.

            “Show me,” said Young. Silently, Jack pushed the dense book towards the Scholar and pointed at the small drawing. Scholar Young licked his white lips and his translucent eyebrows knitted together in a frown. “I’ve seen this before.”

            “Told you,” whispered Jack smugly. Emily kicked him under the table.

            “I’m not sure,” Scholar Young continued, oblivious to the squabbling children. “The text talks about the northern Tunnels but it doesn’t really make sense. Maybe something in Master Crick’s notebooks…”

            “We have to go look for them,” said Emily, her eyes sparkling with adventure.

            “No!” The Scholar’s sudden change in tone made both Emily and Jack jump. “You two need to get to chores. Now.”

            “But the notebooks…” Emily moaned.

            “I’ll look through them. You two can come after curfew but dear Gods, make sure you’re not seen! We don’t need anyone asking questions, understand?” The two Acolytes nodded and grinned. Despite the danger, they felt excited.

 

***

            All was dark in the Library but Jack and Emily felt wide awake. Emily had taken the chance to catch up on lost sleep in Scholar Higgins lesson and Jack’s mind was spinning with possibilities. The slipped, silent and unseen, into the Tunnels and to the room where Scholar Young was waiting. He met them with a grin, his pink tongue poking between his pearly teeth. “I found it,” he breathed and held up a piece of paper.

            The paper was worn with tiny holes where it had been folded and unfolded countless times. Candle wax dotted one edge and smudged notes had been made all over in Master Crick’s looping letters. But even through all this, it was clear what this piece of paper was. It was a map of the Tunnels.

 

***

Scholar Young pointed to where they were on the map and began to explain the rest of it to them. However, there parts of it he didn’t recognise, places that no one had bothered to go in years. “But look here, Jack,” he said. “It’s the same symbol you found in that book.”

“Do you think that’s where Master Crick found those books?” Emily asked. Scholar Young shrugged. “There’s only one way to find out.

 

They had been walking through the damp tunnels for what seemed like an hours and Jack was beginning to wonder if they were lost. It was a scary thought. They had several candles with them and Scholar Young had a torch but the passages just kept getting darker and darker until it was almost impossible to see past the ends of their noses. There were so many twists and turns that he wondered if they would ever find their way out again or just be chalked up as some more Moles who disappeared in the Tunnels.

Emily on the other hand, thought that it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to her. Sometimes Jack found it difficult to believe that she was old enough to be an Acolyte.

 

Suddenly, Scholar Young halted and Jack and Emily crashed into him. “Hey!” snapped Emily, picking herself up from the floor where she had fallen. Jack on the other hand was staring ahead with a concerned look on his face. “What’s going on?” Emily asked, and then she saw. The way was blocked by a sloping mound of earth and rocks.

“What happened?” asked Jack aghast.  Scholar Young sighed.

“There was a cave in several years ago. I haven’t been down here for so long I’d forgotten. There was a fire – no one knows how it was started. We tried to put it out but most of us down here were old and didn’t have the strength to carry buckets of water to and fro.”

“Didn’t you get any help from the Library?”

“No,” Scholar Young laughed. “There wasn’t enough time to send for help and I doubt they would have been bothered even if they had known what was going on. Who cares about a bunch of old Moles? Anyway, the nest thing we knew, the roof was falling in on us. We lost three Masters in the cave in.”

“I’m sorry,” said Emily. Jack just stared at the pile of rocks. How could the Library care so little about people who had served them for so long?

“What do we do now?” was Emily’s next question. Scholar Young blinked several times and looked at the map.

“There are a few other passages that lead that way. It’s not as direct but we should be able to manage it.” And with that, the trio turned and left the cave in, Emily taking one last look back.

 

If they were going the right way (and Scholar Young insisted they were), then they were getting closer and closer to the strange symbol, which lead of the edge of the map, and even though Jack was not listening, Emily kept going on about what might lie ahead.

Eventually the trio came to a passage where only a small left turn separated them from the mysterious symbol. The only problem was, there was no turning, just a bookshelf like the ones used to line the dusty walls of the Great Library that stood above them.

 

            “This doesn’t make any sense,” complained Jack, glancing at the map over Scholar Young’s shoulder. “It says a tunnel leads north from here, but I can’t see one.”

            “Well these tunnels have been built and rebuilt a hundred times over,” said Scholar Young. “Some passages might have been blocked off. Look around. If Master Crick found the tunnel then so will we. But be careful, this is a very old part of the Library.”

 

            They had been searching for forty minutes, combing every inch of bookshelves and were almost ready to give up when Emily let out a sudden cry, “I found it!” Jack and Scholar Young hurried over as Emily was pushing heavily against one of the shelves. “Look here,” she exclaimed. “The shelves don’t quite match up. And you can feel a draft!” Jack and Young grinned at her and joined her in trying to push open the secret door.

            Only when they were all very red in the face did the door budge. It swung wide open and the three of them toppled onto a cold, hard floor – a few books falling after them. When they looked up, they could see a long and narrow passage with corridors branching off as far as they could see by the light of the flickering torch.

“It seems to stretch on for miles,” breathed Scholar Young. “And the map doesn’t show any of this. How are we supposed to search for whatever Master Crick left behind if we don’t have a map?” A note of hopelessness had entered the Scholars voice. Jack and Emily glanced at each other.

“We could mark our way with books?” Jack suggested.

“Right then,” gulped Young. “Let’s get to work.”

The three of them had been wandering the gloomy tunnels for hours, reading the title of every book they passed, many of them had titles in different languages and some were in the common language, but were complete gibberish.

There was one book called: ‘Magic and The Gods’ which they kept seeing over and over again, Jack picked one of them up and opened it, he flicked through the pages, but every page was blank. Emily tried nudging some of the bookshelves to see if there would be any more passages behind them, but there was not.

At one point, they forgot to leave the book trail and Jack and Emily were sent into a panicked frenzy, until Scholar Young found the trail again, and told them off for forgetting. After a long time of walking, they found a book that stood out amongst the other books.

“Hey Emily, take a look at this one,” called Jack. Emily came over and looked at the book. “Pick it up and take a look at it, then.”

“This book is really heavy!” she exclaimed and immediately dumped the book on the floor, and the book opened to a random page. The name of the book was Magic and How Harness It. On the page, there were many different colours and the book was in the common language so that they could read it. “Maybe it will teach us how to use magic! Can’t we look in it now?” asked Emily excitedly

“No Emily, we can’t stay in the tunnels for too long, we need to get back,” said Scholar Young.

They each picked a few books to take back with them and began their long journey to get back through the Tunnels. At the Tunnels entrance, they said their goodbyes and went their separate ways. Jack and Emily somehow made it back to the dormitories without running into the guards.

“See you tomorrow,” whispered Emily when it came time for them to part and gave Jack a quick hug that left him feeling warm inside. That warm feeling, however, was soon extinguished by who was waiting for him outside his door.

 

Jack’s older brother, Martin, was leaning leisurely against the doorframe, pricking his nails. “Well, well, well, look who’s breaking curfew,” teased Martin.

“Yeah, well so are you!” retorted Jack, turning scarlet.

I don’t have a curfew, Jack,” Martin told him. “At least not one that matters, anyway.” Jack rolled his eyes.

“What are you doing here, Martin?”

“Do I need a reason to visit my baby brother?” Jack glared at him. “Fine. Father- What have you got there?” Jack quickly shoved the book from the Tunnels into his bag, thinking frantically.

“It’s from the stargazing room,” Jack lied. “I- I like the pictures.” Martin snorted.

“Well I’ll be sure to let father know you’re studying so diligently,” he laughed. “He wants to see you tomorrow morning after breakfast. I don’t know why. If you ask me,” Martin paused and an evil smile spread across his face, “You’re not worth his time.”

 

            And with that, Martin swept off, leaving his little brother to think about everything that had happened in the crazy day, and what he might find in the magic book.

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