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.


12. Run!

Jack leapt off the handcar as soon as it stopped in the Atrium and ran towards the Tunnels. Suddenly, two Scholars appeared from one of the many corridors branching off the Atrium and Jack darted behind one of the great marble pillars that supported the domed ceiling. He wasn’t sure why, exactly he was hiding. His father was clearly a Monster but he didn’t know what Jack was up to in the Tunnels and he certainly didn’t have men hunting him down. Did he?

As the men drew closer, Jack was afraid they would hear him breathing and discover him. He took a deep breath and held it. Peeking out, he thought he could see the men turn their heads towards him. It was either that, or he was scared out of his skin.  He thought about running back, about forgetting all this ever happened, but no, he couldn’t, he had to keep going.

The Scholars passed without incident and Jack let his breath fall out of him like a waterfall. He was becoming paranoid. Cautiously, he made his way across the Atrium and crept into the Tunnels.


Water was dripping somewhere far away, but in the silence Jack could hear the droplets echoing towards him. He ran through the Tunnels, past bookshelves sagging under some of the books weight. Then, something touched him on the shoulder. He turned around screaming, almost scared to death. And then he saw Emily and Scholar Young.

“What was that for!” said Jack angrily.

“What’s wrong with you?” Emily laughed nervously. Something was clearly wrong. Scholar Young had noticed the same thing but, unlike Emily, he had guessed the source of Jack’s anxiety. “How was the meal?” he asked.


Jack couldn’t get his words out. He knew it was important but he couldn’t quite get it into his head. His father had killed a man. Jack had to spit it out but he didn’t know how to say it. Questions buzzed through his mind. What would happen if I told them? What would happen if I lie?

He couldn’t hold it any longer and by the look on Emily’s face, she knew something was wrong so there was no point holding back.

“He did kill Crick,” Jack blurted. Scholar Young stood still. One long silence followed. Jack took an exhausted breath. I let it out.


He sat down for a moment. It took a lot to process what had just come out of his mouth. He stood up, not knowing what to do, he stayed still. He hoped somebody would think of an idea because he had gone completely blank. Scholar Young had begun to pace. Jack didn’t want to go on any more. But he had to.

“There’s more,” Jack said. Scholar Young froze in his tracks.

“What is it?” Emily asked. Jack took a deep breath.

“My father can do magic.” Emily gasped but Jack silenced her with a look, something he had never been able to do before. “He’s working with Master Rengyr, like you said. But they don’t want to hide magic, they want to use it to take over the Library and I don’t think they plan to stop there. He wants me to join him.” Jack looked at Emily. Her face had always been easy to read and right now he could see the same question that thundered through his head reflected on her face: What now?

The two Acolytes turned to the pale Scholar to see how he would respond. He was braced against a bookshelf that looked as though it might break if Scholar Young put much more pressure on it. Jack thought he saw tears in the Scholars pink eyes, but in a blink they were gone.

“The Library isn’t safe anymore,” he croaked out. “Go and pack your things, only the essentials. Meet me in here in twenty minutes.” Jack and Emily looked at him in alarm.

“What-” Emily tried to interrupt by Scholar Young was pacing again and talking, more to himself than to them.

“There is still an hour before curfew so we should be able to leave without arousing suspicion… The map showed and exit, I’m sure… yes and then-”


“Matthew!” It was the first time that Emily had used the Scholar’s first name. He blinked, as though it was alien to him. Jack wondered when the Scholar had last heard it himself. “What are you talking about?” Emily continued. Scholar Young sighed, his pale face draining of what little colour it had.

“We have to leave,” he said. Jack and Emily began to protest but he held up a hand to keep them quiet. “It’s not safe. If we stay here much longer they will find us, our work… We have found what Master Crick was trying to expose but it will all be for nothing if we are captured. You might be okay, Jack, but they will definitely kill me and who knows what will happen to Emily.” The two children were silent. When they had started on this journey, they knew it would be dangerous, but it had only just hit home that they could lose their lives. Jack looked at Emily and thought about what it would be like to lose her. It wasn’t possible. Scholar Young spoke again.

“We need to leave. Tonight.”




            Harold Carter sat at the dining table in his quarters, swirling a glass of blood red wine in front of his nose, inhaling the sweet aroma. The food from dinner was still laid out, Jack’s hardly touched. The boy’s reaction to magic had been strange. If Martin had been there, he probably would have fainted but his youngest son had reacted almost calmly. It could be a sign of strength he had not realised the boy possessed – or…

            That friend of his, Emily, she had always been trouble. Hadn’t she worked in the Tunnels for a while? Was it possible that the girl had corrupted his son? Did Jack already know of his plans, of magic?


            Harold sighed and sipped his wine. No. It wasn’t possible. But hadn’t he thought the same eight years ago when his wife started behaving strangely? He had dismissed her behaviour as a phase, nothing to worry about. Then he had found out the truth. She had found out about his plans with Rengyr, his experiments with magic. And then she had burnt it all. All the papers an

d books and notes that he and Rengyr had put together, ready to put their plan into action. She had destroyed it all and they had had to start from scratch. In his rage he had killed her – his one regret. It would be poetic if her son was the one to foil his plan this time. Could his son really betray him?

            Of course he could. No one was beyond corruption. Harold had learnt that as he watched the life leave his wife’s eyes.


            Harold stood and calmly walked over to a table at the side of the room. The only thing on that table was a small bronze bell. He rang it. One of the many Scholars that served him entered immediately and stood to attention, waiting for orders.

            “Bring me my son,” said Harold Carter, Master of Medicine. “By whatever means necessary.”




Emily and Jack ran to the dormitories like two wolves hunting prey. They split at the entrance, Jack disappearing into his room and Emily sprinting to hers two floors down. She burst through the door, only realising at the last minute that that might alert the other girls in her dormitory as to what she was doing. She breathed a sigh of relief as the door opened to an empty room. The other girls must still be at dinner. It didn’t surprise her. The girls often hung out without Emily – she wasn’t the best at making friends and she didn’t particularly like them anyway.

She dashed over to the small drawer that contained all that she owned in the world and started shoving clothes into her satchel. It didn’t take long. She was about to leave when a splash of pink caught her eye.

The fuchsia paint was carefully painted across her the wall that her small bed was pressed against, just missing her white clock. They weren’t really supposed to decorate the walls but no one really enforced that rule and Emily loved the colours. Jack had bought both the clock and the paint for her as birthday presents. He was the only one who ever bought her anything. There was another girl in the dormitory who had the same birthday as Emily. On their birthday, the other girl would wake up to a pile of presents at the foot of her bed. Emily woke up with nothing. After a while, she stopped telling people it was her birthday. Even after she made friends with Jack, it was a few years before she told him it was her birthday. Jack and Master Crick; they were the only ones who had ever bought her anything.

Everything Emily had packed was practical; clothes, shoes, a water skein. She wanted take at least one of the presents with her. But what? The paint was stuck to the wall and the clock was too big. There wasn’t much else left. Eventually she decided on a small book of myths from Master Crick on her last birthday and a pale pink blanket with roses embroidered on it – her first birthday present. It was what she had been wrapped in when they found her in the Atrium and the only thing she had left of her parents. It hurt sometimes, not having a family. But she had Jack now and that was more than enough. She took one last look at the dormitory that had been her home and left to go meet Jack, closing the door behind her.


She caught up with Jack back at the entrance.  “Come on Jack, we need to go,” Emily said, pulling Jack’s sleeve. But he held back. He could have sworn the he saw something move. Probably just a trick of the light he thought. Emily pulled him harder and he fell into the wall.

“Ow!” he cried, pealing himself off the wall. He ran after Emily.


They reached the Atrium, slowing their pace to avoid suspicion. There were very few people in the Atrium at this time of evening but even so they crept in, hugging the edges of the wall. When the coast was clear, Jack and Emily strode out across the Atrium towards the Tunnels. That was their first mistake.

“Jack Carter,” shouted a voice. “Your father wants to see you.”  Two Guards were marching towards them and more were closing in from all sides. Jack grabbed Emily’s hand and they ran. That was their second mistake.

“After them!” shouted one of the Guards and they charged. Halfway to Scholar Young, Emily screamed and her hand was ripped from Jacks. One of the Guards had caught the strap of Emily’s satchel, yanking her to a halt. Looking back, Jack saw Emily kicking and fighting viciously against a Guard who held her tight. Jack skidded to a stop, turned and ran back towards his friend, shouting her name.

One of the Guards lunged towards him and Jack dodged him quickly. Another tried to grab hold but he wriggled free before the man could get a proper hold. A third Guard stood in his way, hesitated as the boy drew closer, giving Jack the time to kick the most sensitive of places. The Guard fell to his knees and Jack leapt of the Guard who was pinning Emily down.

Jack hit him again and again, bruising his hands on the chain mail. Nothing he did made any difference. Emily was screaming for him to run but Jack paid her no heed. Suddenly, strong hands grabbed him from behind, lifting him into the air. It took Jack a few moments to realise he had been captured and when he did, all the fight drained out of him. It was over.


And then the hands let him go! Jack dropped to the floor, breathing heavily. He looked up to see Scholar Young standing over him, wielding some sort of staff. In the bright gas lights of the Atrium, the Scholar’s pale skin seemed to glow. Spinning the staff at lightning speed, Scholar Young took out the Guard holding Emily but re-enforcements were only moments away.

“Run,” he commanded, thrusting a bag at Jack.

They ran with a speed to rival that of the handcars, adrenaline surging through their veins. A blinding white light flashed behind them and they both knew it was magic. Scholar Young had given them the few extra seconds they needed to get away.

As the bolted through a door at random, Jack made the mistake of looking back at the monstrous fight between the Guards and Scholar Young, though there wasn’t much to see. White hair and a flailing staff was all that could be made out of Scholar Young amidst the mass of armed men.


The corridor that the two found themselves in was dim and deserted but footsteps could be heard, drawing ever closer. Jack darted into a broom cupboard and hauled Emily in after him.

 “Did you see what they did to him?” Jack whispered.

“I know,” Emily choked out, fear making it hard to breathe. “He tried to get out but he just couldn’t, there were too many for him, he couldn’t… he just couldn’t…” The footsteps were close now. Jack pulled Emily close and held her tight. They both held their breath as the rhythmic marching of the Guards passed outside. It felt as if the steady stream of Guards would never end, that they would be trapped in this broom cupboard until they died.

Finally silence fell but it still took a few moments for Jack to say, “What now?”

“I don’t know,” Emily hissed. “Matthew – Scholar Young – he was going to show us the way out… I don’t know… I don’t know…”

“The Tunnels,” Jack murmured to himself.


“The Tunnels.” Jack cleared his throat. “He said something about the map. Maybe there’s a way out through the new passages?”

“Even if there is, we haven’t found it. It’ll never work!”

“It’s our only hope,” insisted Jack. Then his heart dropped to his stomach. “But we’ll never get down there. There are Guards all over the Atrium.”

“Oh, please,” Emily scoffed and for a moment the old glint of mischief was back in her eye. “There’s more than one way into the Tunnels.”

“There is?” Jack asked in surprise.

“Obviously. The Tunnels stretch under the entire Library. There’s an entrance by the Tunnels. I used to use it when I wanted to avoid Rengyr’s boring sermons.”

“You told me you were helping make breakfast in the kitchens!” Jack exclaimed.

“You would have made me stop if I told you the truth,” protested Emily. The two friends grinned at each other. If only it could stay like this forever. For a moment, Jack considered turning themselves in, giving up and letting everything go back to normal. And then he remembered what his father had said. Nothing would ever be normal again. A grim determination had fallen back upon the children, all laughter gone.

“Let’s go.”

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