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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3. The Note

Large crowds of boisterous Acolytes were gathered in large huddles, chattering apprehensively about the incident that had just occurred. Jack and Emily were at their usual seats in the dining hall. At the far corner of the hall away from all the loud delinquents. They sat and thought longingly over what had just occurred, Emily was shocked by the gossip of the other Acolytes. ‘He’s mad’ they said, ‘bonkers in the brain’, Emily was disgusted by what they were saying.

 Emily stared at the moulding cheese and pickle sandwich that sat in front of her with a brown, bruised apple on the side of her plate. She wasn’t hungry. Jack’s lunch was also untouched, as the events in the Atrium had shaken them both.

Lessons had been cancelled for the day and the Acolytes had been confined to the dining hall while the Scholars ‘dealt with the situation.’

 

But what exactly was the situation? They had all seen the dangerous confrontation between Masters Crick and Rengyr. They had all seen the Guards surround Master Crick and…

And what? The next anyone had seen, Crick was out cold and a book was burning in the centre of the Atrium. People were saying that Crick had burnt the book and that he was, even now, in the cells awaiting judgement. But that didn’t fit with the man Emily knew.

“I don’t understand why Master Crick would do such a thing,” she said, breaking the long mourning full silence. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Master Crick was the Master of tunnels, a title that most in the Library thought redundant. The saying was ‘the Tunnels are where Scholars went to die.’

The network of caverns that made up the foundations of the Library housed all the information that was no longer deemed useful. It had always surprised Emily that Scholars had this view of the Tunnels, considering that they had been the beginning of the Library over a thousand years ago when Scholars were persecuted instead of revered.

Emily had loved working in the Tunnels. With its dark, winding passages lined with scrolls and books in ancient languages, you never knew what you would find. Myths and fairy tales too fanciful for history lessons were some of Emily’s favourites. She had often curled up in a forgotten room with a warm, knitted blanket and a dim lighted flickering candle, losing herself in the wonderful stories – stories of hero’s slaying dragons and long lost princesses. In these books, it always seemed to be the poorest and most ordinary people who turned out to have secret powers and defeat the villain.

 

Master Rengyr hated these books and if it wasn’t for the first sacred law (Any knowledge, written or spoken, should never be destroyed. To do so is an affront to the Gods), he would have had them destroyed long ago. As it was, he could only get away with hiding the information away where no one would bother to look for it. It was only when Emily had been caught with one of these books in her room that she had been moved from the Tunnels to the kitchens and away from ‘their corrupting influence.’

On the other hand, Master Crick thought every book deserved to be read, whether it was fact or fiction.

“We can learn just as much about our history and culture from what people made up as from what they actually did,” he used to tell her. Master Crick would never destroy a book, even if he didn’t agree with its contents.

 

“Well… how well did you know him?” Jack replied whilst scratching his head. “You know all the Moles are crazy.”

“Don’t call them that!” Emily snapped. ‘Mole’ was the name that most people used when referring to the Tunnel Scholars. They were called that because every now and then an elderly Scholar would wander off in the Tunnels, never to be seen again. When this happened, people would say that they had ‘gone to live with the moles.

“And he’s not crazy.” Emily sighed as she pondered why Master Crick would burn a book. “He called Rengyr a traitor,” Emily muttered. “What if he was framed? What if it wasn’t him who burned the book at all?”

            “What are you saying?” Jack asked incredulously.

            “Oh, I don’t know,” Emily moaned, head in her hands. “I just can’t stand the thought of Master Crick in those cells.”

 

Emily felt a worry inside her. All those dark days in the Tunnels had built a strong bond with Emily and Master Crick. The worry made her feel empty inside. If anything happened to Crick, she didn’t know what she would do. If only there was a way, any way, she could talk to him, make sure he was okay…

She looked up, an idea gradually dawning on her. Jack was rolling his apple morosely around on the table. Emily watched as it slipped from his control and bounced onto the floor. He leapt from the bench and crawled under the table to grab it.

 

“Jack,” Emily said slowly, in a voice that tasted of mischief. A thud sounded, followed by an ouch as Jack banged his head on the table.

“What?” he asked reappearing.

“Master Crick didn’t look so good when they took him away,” she began. “Wouldn’t they ask your father to treat him?”

“I suppose,” replied Jack, oblivious to Emily’s thoughts.

“And you’ve been there with him before, haven’t you?” She stared at him, a grin spreading across her face. Then the penny dropped.

 

            “No,” said Jack. “No way.”

            “Please?” Emily begged. “You could get us in easily.”

            “Are you mad?” Jack tried to whisper but failed miserably, drawing the attention of several nearby Acolytes. “Do you have any idea what would happen to us if we got caught?” he continued, quieter. Emily rolled her eyes at him.

            “Don’t be such a scaredy-cat. No one is going to punish you, your father’s too important. And what can they do to me that they haven’t done already?”

            “They could throw you out,” Jack murmured. Emily ignored him.

            “I need to know how he is, Jack,” she pleaded with large doe eyes. Jack gritted his teeth. “Fine,” he grumbled. “But we’d better go now.” Quickly and discreetly, the two children slipped out of the dining hall.

 

“Which way should we go?” asked Emily. Jack looked up and down the empty corridor then gestured to the right. 

“This way’s fastest.” 

 

Jack had been to the cells a few times before and it was never pleasant. A bad memory crept back from the back of his mind.

The first time his father took him there to watch him at work, he had tripped over, cutting his hand on the rough stone floor. He had dropped his old teddy and a savage prisoner had reached out for it. The prisoner had given it back – minus its head.

 

Jack was so deep in thought that he nearly walked straight in front of a Guard. Emily grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

“You idiot, Jack!” Emily hissed. “Do you want to be caught?”

            “No, sorry.” Jack shook the memories from his head. ““We’ll have to go the other way.” But as they turned, they saw a Guard looking straight at them.

“Hey you two! What are you doing here?” shouted the angry Guard and he started running towards them.

“Run,” Emily screamed to Jack and they both sprinted as fast as they could.

 

After a few minutes of darting around corners and through alleys, Emily looked behind her and realised they had lost the Guard.

“We can stop now,” muttered Emily and stopped. They both lay down on the floor, sweating.

            “You know,” panted Emily, “you can run really fast. For a nerd.”

“Says the girl shorter than a toddler,” Jack laughed. Emily gave him a look that plainly said, if I wasn’t so tired, I would kick you right now. But Jack didn’t get the message.

“Come on,” he said, standing. “If we don’t get moving, we’ll get caught again.” He pulled Emily to her feet and they set off.

 

The Cells were locked under the Divinities section of the Library. They were underground, but above the Tunnels. Several long corridors with no windows would be an easy way to describe it, the walls lined with cells.

Each cell had a single, rusting, metal bed set up against the wall, at least three feet from the ground. Gas lighting hadn’t been extended to the cells so torches lined the walls, giving the room a pleasant shade of mud. In the corner of each cell was a toilet with no flush, just a gaping hole that led to the sewer.

 

Jack approached the cell door. It was a large oak panelled door that had a small barred window cut into the polished wood. He reached out his hand towards the iron handle but suddenly a voice boomed from behind the door.

“Name.”

“Jack C-carter,” Jack stammered. A face that seemed to be all nose appeared at the bars.

            “What business do you have here?” the Guard asked strongly.

            “My father, Master Harold Carter, sent me to do an initial assessment of Master Crick as part of my training,” Jack lied. The Guard grunted and the large oak door creaked open to reveal a circular room with several doors leading off it. Emily suddenly ran, checking each door.

“Emily, come back,” shouted Jack, immediately wishing he hadn’t. The Guard appeared behind him.

“Who’s that?” he growled.

“She’s also studying Medicine,” Jack lied again. He was getting very good at it. “She’s very enthusiastic.” The Guard grunted again and pointed to the door that Emily had just bolted through.

“Crick’s cell is at the end. Make sure she doesn’t cause any trouble, ya’ now what these mad moles is like.” Jack nodded and set off after Emily.

‘’Two right I do,’’ Jack smiled and then followed on after Emily.

 

            He found her crouching by the door of a cell far away from the other prisoners, her small fingers wrapped tightly around the bars. Master Crick was inches away from her, whispering.

            “You shouldn’t be here,” he croaked out. “It’s not safe.” The change in the old man was striking; earlier, he had been powerful, a force to be reckoned with. Now he looked weak.

Up close, Jack could see he was badly hurt. A prodigious bruise covered his bony cheek and he winced at the slightest movement. Blood trickled down one Temple, from where he had been roughly beaten to the ground by the huge guards. Emily had noticed as well.

“You’re hurt,” she said tenderly.

“I’m fine,” insisted Master Crick then cried out as he shifted his weight. Jack couldn’t keep quiet anymore.

“Let me look at you,” he said. “My father is Master of Medicine. I might be able to help.”

 

Master Crick fixed Jack with steely blue eyes. “Emily has told me about you,” he wheezed uncertainly. Jack’s ears turned crimson with embarrassment.

“He can help,” Emily urged. Crick looked between the two and nodded gently. Jack knelt on the filthy stone floor and examined the old Master as best as he could. When he had finished, he smiled and said,

“It’s not as bad as it looks.” You could practically see the tension leaving Emily as he spoke. “With some rest and proper food you should be fine. I can talk to my father if you like? He should be able to get you somewhere where you can get better in peace.”

“I doubt he’d be very keen to help me,” laughed Crick. “Not after what I’ve done.”

 

“So why did you do it? Burn the book, I mean,” asked Emily.

“There’s no point in telling you,” Master Crick sighed, his ashen face crumpling. “No one listens to me anymore.” Now it was Emily’s turn to sigh. She looked at Jack and rolled her eyes as if to say, honestly.

“We’ll listen to you,” Emily told him.

“I know you would,” Crick laughed again. “But you’re too young to understand.”

“No we’re not,” insisted Emily. But the Master wouldn’t be reasoned with.

“Is there anything we can do for you?” Jack cut in before Emily had a chance to argue further. “Anything at all?”  Crick considered for a moment, hesitated, then nodded and reached into his robes. When his hand emerged, it was clutching a grubby bit of paper, folded over several times. He pressed it into Emily’s hand.

“Give this to Scholar Matthew Young. Can you do that for me?” Emily nodded even though Jack was sure she had no idea who Scholar Young was. He was about to open his mouth to ask when the clanging of a door and distant voices sounded.

“We need to go,” Jack snapped, panic entering his voice. If the wrong person caught them here…

Emily was still clutching the bars, tears in her eyes. It was as if she knew that she would never see her old friend again.

            “Promise me,” said Master Crick.

            “I promise,” said Emily.

“Now, Emily,” pleaded Jack, pulling on her arm. Emily allowed herself to be pulled away from the prison cell and the two hurried down the corridor.

 

            A group of people rounded the corner and Jack only just managed to steer Emily into an empty cell, hiding from sight in the shadows. When the danger had passed, Jack poked his head out of the empty cell, just in time to see the deep purple robes of Master Rengyr sweeping out of sight accompanied by Jack’s father.

            Jack’s heart skipped a beat. If his father had caught him down here… Well, the consequences didn’t bare thinking about. 

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