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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8. Choosing Sides

Jack woke up and lazily looked around the dormitories. The deafening silence of the room suggested that it was early in the morning and he ought to be asleep like all of his fellow Acolytes; some on the floor whilst others were hanging off their beds. They still acted like Novices; wriggling so much that they woke up on the floor.  He had never done that, although he sometimes wished that he had so that he could be seen as normal. Unfortunately, none of the other boys in his dorm really appreciated him and so hardly talked to him.

His section of the dorm appeared to be the only blank wall space. Posters of every sort were crammed on the rest of the muddy wall but Jack did not believe in decorating as he saw it as vandalising the Library.

He rolled over to find a comfortable position to go back to his dreams. But something was bothering him… Thoughts flooded his mind. Was he doing the right thing by hiding what he knew from the Council? Was this all a mistake?

He stretched again. Should he tell Emily that he would not hide from the Council anymore? It seemed like the right thing to do. He glanced sleepily at his gleaming watch on the bedside table, it was only 4am. One whole hour until he could get out of bed.

 

When the whole dorm was finally awake, they began to wriggle briskly into their clothes. They had a service at six o’clock and they needed to get ready.

While they were walking down to the Temple, Jack spotted Emily’s distinct curly black hair and eagerly waved at her. However; she vanished into the river of people entering the Temple and even though he craned his neck, he caught no glimpse of her before entering the solitary silence of the Temple.

He finally reached his usual seat, next to the aisle, where he had a perfect view of the building. Jack loved the Temple and its vast white marble walls that towered over the hundreds of people sat in its midst along with the ceiling adorned with paintings of the Gods looking down on them. He saw the familiar figure of Master Rengyr pause and lay one of his books on the Lectern.

“Good morning everyone,” he said commanding instant attention and stroking his short goatee as he would a pet. “The recent tragedy-” everyone knew he was talking about Master Crick – “has brought to light the sad truth that this Great Library of ours is not invulnerable. We must work together if we are to take down the forces that threaten us, even from within.” Rengyr focussed deeply on each person in the room. Jack looked at his hands. “We have been tested, but we will triumph.” He was dark, sinister and the most important person in the room. Everyone looked up to him.

Guilt overwhelmed Jack like a disease spreading through every inch of his body. He could not concentrate on the sermon, as his thoughts were entirely focussed on Emily. Could he really betray her to the Council? But then, could he really keep all he knew from his father?  

 

The service ended and as Jack was swept into breakfast by the tide of Acolytes, he felt a soft pat on his shoulder. He spun around. Standing behind him, was Emily. Jack smiled awkwardly.

Don’t mess up, don’t mess up!

“Um… Emily!” He stammered, throwing a cheesy smile at her. “Fancy seeing you here.” Emily looked at him an eyebrow raised. She was very confused.

What are you on about? I eat here. Every day. With you,” she replied. Jack half cowered back. He was terrified about telling her what was going through his mind but she was his best friend and she needed to know. A deathly silence rose between Emily and Jack as they stood in the crowded dining hall.

“Okay, Emily there’s something you need to know….” Jack glanced at the floor to avoid eye contact “I think we should tell the Council what we know; Master Crick’s note, the map, the books on magic - I don’t think I can hide from family anymore.” As soon as Jack had uttered these words, Emily’s face turned a shade of burgundy.

“You can’t be serious?” she growled at him. “After everything we have been through together, I thought you would have a little more loyalty. I have skived off lessons to go to the Tunnels. I have put so much work into this. You can’t stop now!”

“It’s all right for you,” blurted Jack. “You don’t know what it’s like to keep something from your family. You don’t have one!” Hurt flashed across Emily’s eyes and Jack’s heart dropped to the pit of his stomach as he realised what he had said.

“No,” gulped Emily. “I guess I don’t.” And with that, she stormed off to the edge of the Dining Hall where she could watch Jack with hateful eyes. Jack stared after at her mournfully. Had he just lost his best friend?

 

Jack barely touched his porridge and brown sugar. It didn’t taste as sweet without Emily. After a few half-hearted bites, Jack pushed his bowl away and plodded out of the dining hall, the happiness all drained out of him.

When he reached the Atrium, Jack headed straight for the small railway, tucked against the Atrium’s curved wall. The Scholar working the handcar that helped people traverse the length Library, looked at Jack with suspicion in his eyes. Acolytes weren’t normally allowed to use the hand car as their dormitories, classrooms, work places and dining hall was all within three square miles of each other. But when Jack told him who he was and who he was going to see, the Scholar let him clamber on board immediately.

 

Sat in a hard wood chair, Jack watched the Library whizz by. His father’s quarters were ten miles away in Medicine, but the journey took only twenty minutes by handcar. Jack loved going on the handcar. He loved to see all the different departments: Arithmetic, Cartography, History, Divinities. They even went through an open air courtyard and Jack received a brief flash of warm sun before zooming back into the gloom of the Library. When he got off in Medicine, his feet were a little unsteady, as they always were after travelling at such speed.  He stumbled towards the Carter quarters, anxious to see his father. He was well on his way back to his family.

The polished oak door opened soundlessly when Jack pushed against it, regularly oiled by the many Scholars who served Harold Carter. Jack slipped inside his father’s grand study and took a few hesitant steps forward.

“Father?” he called, but there was no reply.

Not much had changed in the study over the years. It was long with a tiled floor so that every step echoed. Their father had always known whenever Jack and Martin had tried to sneak off when they were younger because of this floor.  Several doors lead off to other rooms: his father’s bedroom, a private bathing chamber, a dining room for meetings and family meals and a smaller bedroom that Jack and Martin had shared when they were younger.

Cabinets, tables and gilded mirrors lined the walls. When Jack had been a boy, vases of flowers and pictures of the Carter family had sat on those tables but after his mother died, Jack’s father had removed them all. It was almost like he was trying to erase her very memory. Jack knew that his father probably took down the pictures because it was too painful to be reminded of his dead wife every day but Jack would have liked to be able to see them once in a while. He could barely remember his mother’s face.

At the end of the study sat a grand desk with books and paper and quills arranged neatly. Everything had its place. Jack had his own desk in school in a similar way. Behind the desk was a wide window that let in streaming sunlight. It was one of the few of its kind in the Library. From the window, you could see the entire Medicine department, the city walls and then…

A forest stretching as far as the eye could see. Deep green trees rolled across the horizon. Jack imagined that if it was blue, that was what the ocean would look like.

 

A door slammed shut. Jack whirled from the window to see his tall father emerging from the bathing chamber, shaking water droplets off his hands.

“Ah, there you are, Jack,” he said by way of greeting. “I was beginning to wonder where you were.” Harold Carter sat smoothly behind his desk, motioning for his son to do the same. Jack obeyed, feeling very much like he was being examined. “How are you?”

The question took Jack by surprise. Not once in his life could he ever remember his father asking how he was. “F-fine,” Jack stammered.

“So there’s nothing wrong?” his father fixed him with an icy gaze.

“Well…” If there was going to be a time to tell his father about all he and Emily had been doing in the Tunnels, It was now.

“Well what?”

“Well,” Jack gulped. “It’s this whole thing with Master Crick. What really happened?”

His father’s usual airiness and self-importance drained away to be replaced by a glint of hate in his eye. A wicked smile eased onto his face.

 “My son, why would such an ominous question occur in your young mind? These things are matters to dark for your concern. Besides, Master Tiberius Crick was mad. All Scholars in the Tunnels are. Why else would he break our most sacred law and burn a book. He had a sick mind,” Jack’s father said, snidely.

“But,” continued Jack hesitantly, “how did he die?”

“Surely you know?” Harold Carter laughed. “Everyone was talking about it. It was a heart attack?”

“I don’t think that’s right,” blurted Jack suddenly. Sweat began to bead on his forehead. He had never openly contradicted his father before and who knew what the consequences would be? His father gritted his jaw but Jack ignored him. “Master Crick was running around and shouting when the guards took him away. How could he have strength enough for that and then die of a heart attack a few hours later?”

Harold Carter slammed his fists on the table and leaned close to his son’s face. “Master Crick was a mad, old fool and it was time for him to die,” he whispered menacingly. “Why do you care anyway? You didn’t even know him!”

Jack looked at him incredulously. Does my father not care about the death of Tiberius Crick? He must care, he thought.

“Surely you should care!” shouted Jack, enraged. “He was a Master Scholar just like you,” Jack cried, anger swelling up inside him. He was furious.

“Tiberius Crick was no more a Scholar than you are. He was crazy,” Jacks father retorted. He was now nearly as angry as Jack was. His anger like a fire building up inside of him.  “Now get out of my sight before I do something I’ll regret.”

 

***

Down in the Tunnels, Emily was with Scholar Young, sobbing her heart out. “I never fight with him,” Emily said quietly whilst sniffing. Even as she said it she knew it was a lie. The last time they had fought, Jack had told his father about the bird Emily was looking after. He had betrayed her then – who was to say he wouldn’t do it now?

“I sure it’ll be fine,” soothed Scholar Young. “You two are such good friends, always together, remember when-”

 “Stop! You do realise you are making me feel worse, I just can’t believe he would do such a thing!” Emily interrupted. Scholar Young gently rested his arm around her. Emily was remembering stories of when they were a lot younger.

Scholar Young felt sorry for the girl sat beside him. He did not know what it was like to argue with anyone. He never argued, not even with his parents, though they had died years ago. He was trying his best to make her feel better, saying what he needed to, but he was worried. If Jack really did go to the Council then it would be his head on the chopping block.

 

Emily looked deep into the bright candle flame, eyes bloodshot from rubbing them. Her brown irises filled with tears again as she wondered aloud where Jack was.

“I imagine he is doing the same thing as you are doing right now, regretting his decisions,” Scholar Young replied.

“No, he doesn’t regret his decisions; he believes that everything happens for a reason.”

 

Suddenly, Jack stormed into the room, but not the type of ‘storming in’ manner you’d expect when someone is angry.

“What are you doing here? I thought you didn’t want to be a part of this anymore?” Emily asked.

“Yeah, about that, I’m sorry about what happened at breakfast,” Jack said sheepishly. “I wasn’t sure if we were doing the right thing, but I’ve just spoken to my father and he is definitely hiding something.”

“You promise you’re not just saying this to make me feel better?” Emily sniffed.

“Promise,” said Jack and Emily hugged him.

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