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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6. The Stargazing Room

There was a moment of silence, tense and deafening, then –

“It was not!” bellowed Jack to Scholar Young. Even though Jack and his father didn’t have the closest bond in the Library, he still knew him well enough to know he would never commit a crime like this.

“Your father is a traitor to the Library and he murdered-” as Scholar Young struggled to proceed, not yet finished with his speech, but Jack interrupted him with a cry of anger.

“You’re lying! You’re just a stupid Mole, you don’t know anything!” And with that, he turned and stormed out of the room. Scholar Young stared after him, a thunderous look on his face.

 

Emily had stayed silent the whole time, quietly watching the confrontation, not sure who to support. She took a few hesitant steps after Jack, loyalty drawing her to her best friend, but Scholar Young reached out a hand and stopped Emily dead in her tracks, blocking the dark entrance to the complicated city of tunnels.

“Don’t go after him,” the Scholar told her quietly.

 “Why?” Emily rudely questioned. She felt a tangled knot forming in her stomach from worrying about where Jack was going and what he might do.

“Because he needs to calm down,” replied Young. “And there’s more that you should know.”

“What is it? Is it the secret that Master Crick died for? Do you know what is was?”

“Yes,” the Scholar’s reply was barely audible. “Part of it anyway.”

“Will you tell me?” Emily asked eagerly. The man sighed and nodded.

“You’d better sit down,” he said. “It’s a long story.” Emily slid onto a rickety seat behind and ink stained desk and looked expectantly up at him. Scholar Young sighed once more and began to talk.

 

“It was the book - the book changed everything.”

“What book?” Emily asked quietly. She could see the pain on Scholar Young’s face as he tried to recall the memory. It was the pain of knowing that you would never again see someone you loved. She knew how it felt.  She had never met her parents, she had just been found one day, crying in the Atrium. But even though they had abandoned her, Emily somehow found a way to miss her absent father and mother.

Scholar Young glanced at her sharply and Emily knew that if she wanted to hear the rest of the story, she should keep her mouth shut – which was something she found profoundly difficult.

“Master Crick found it a few months ago, I don’t know where, but he was different after that. He’s always questioned the way the Library is run but he’s never caused any real trouble. It seemed to contain a record of the how the Library began. You know the story, of course, how could you not? They drill it into you day after day; how the first Scholars found refuge from persecution in these very tunnels and used their wisdom to build the Library up to the mighty power it is today.” A sharp bitter edge had entered his voice, but Emily kept silent. “But this book said something different. I never saw it myself (Master Crick said it was too dangerous) but from what I understand, it said that the first Scholars were persecuted for using magic and that they used that same magic to build the Library.”

 

“That’s impossible!” Emily blurted out, unable to keep quiet any longer. “Only the Gods can use magic… That’s why they’re the Gods! If humans could use magic then…”

“Then it would change the Lands as we know them, I know,” snapped Scholar Young. “Even so, Master Crick wanted to tell everyone what he had found. He was going to go to the Council with the book but somehow Rengyr and Carter found out what he was going to do.”

“And that’s why they killed him,” Emily interrupted. “So he couldn’t tell anyone.”

“That’s what I thought at first, but this note,” the Scholar tapped the crumpled paper Emily had given him. “This note tells a different story.” Emily held her breath. This was the moment she had been waiting for, to find out what was inside the note. “Crick knew they were going to kill him. That was why he made such a scene in the Atrium – to make it harder for them. He writes:

‘By the time you read this, I shall be gone from this world. It is the only way they can keep me from revealing their secret. Rengyr has discovered the powers that built the Library and he knows how to wield them. With this knowledge, he can enslave the Lands and bend every living thing to his will.’

 

Scholar Young lowered the note and looked Emily straight in the eye. She stared back at him with a mixture of fear and rage. Finally she said, “We have to stop them.”

 

***

Jack burst out of the Tunnels and hurried towards the dank, neglected part of the Library that housed it’s records. In the musty room, Jack chaotically searched for the logbook he had been working on the day Master Crick died.

Listening to Scholar Young in the Tunnels, a horrible thought had crossed his mind: the altered logbook. What if it had something to do with Master Crick? And if someone had removed information about Crick, could it have been his father? Could it his father really have murdered someone?

 

Even when Jack’s mother had been alive, his father had rarely made time for his sons. But his mother had always been kind, smiling and gentle. She somehow found a way to stop Jack and his brother, Martin, from fighting. She made them see the best in each other and in themselves. When she died, it was like a rope had been cut and Jack was left falling, alone and in the dark. Martin, who was older, had drawn closer to their father, constantly seeking approval. Jack had withdrawn into himself. It was only when he had become friends with Emily that he had begun to smile again.

Jack often resented his father for not being kinder in that hard time and the two barely saw each other. But then hardly any of the Acolytes saw their parents regularly, not since they had moved into the dormitories two years ago.

No. It was inconceivable to think that his father had murdered Master Carter. But even so…

 

He found it! There it was, in black cursive writing, the record of the books that had been borrowed and returned. And at the bottom of the page were the tell-tale traces that showed a log had been removed. If he looked closely, he could just about make out a word, a name: Crick. Jack dropped the book and paced up and down the shelves, searching once again. That logbook had proved that someone was trying to hide Crick’s movements, but that didn’t mean his father had anything to do with it. Perhaps another logbook could prove his innocence.

Jack pulled out a book that recorded all the medicines and healing herbs that had been used. He frantically flipped pages, his brain working like it never had before. Any medicine or (Gods help him) poison that his father had used to treat Master Crick would be logged in here. He reached the day when the old Master had been taken into custody and read each line carefully. Nothing. There was no record at all of Harold Carter taking out medicine on that day. That couldn’t be right! Jack had seen his father with Master Rengyr in the cells himself. Why else would he have been there if not to treat Master Crick for his injuries? There should be something! Yarrow or Yellow Wort or something.

But the records system was old and impractical. It could easily be wrong… Or his father could be guilty.

 

There was one last thing Jack could try. In the corner of the dust riddled room lived the book where the records of all the prisoners who inhabited the cells. There were very few entries and Jack found Master Cricks easily. To the untrained eye, there was nothing wrong with it; it had Crick’s name, the date he entered the cells, the reason for him being there and his date of death. All was in order.

But Jack had spent the past two years filling out and checking books like these. He knew what the parchment smelled like when it was new; he could tell how old the books were by their texture; he could tell how long ago an entry had been made by the way the ink had faded.

He could be wrong (and he hoped he was), but if Jack was right then Master Crick’s death had been logged before he had died.

 

***

“Where is he?” Emily muttered under her breath. It had been a good forty-five minutes since Jack had stormed off – more than enough time for him to cool down. Emily was itching to tell him all about what Scholar Young had revealed.  The only problem was that she was having trouble finding him. He wasn’t in the dormitories or in the dining hall. Someone had said that they’d seen him in the log rooms and Emily was worried that he was going to tell on her but he wasn’t there either. Now Emily was standing in the middle of an empty corridor, wondering where in the Lands her best friend could be.

Suddenly it hit her and she could have kicked herself for not thinking of it earlier. Ever since she had known him, whenever he was upset Jack would always go to the same place: the Stargazing Room.

 

As high as the sky, the towering room was one of Jack’s favourite places in the whole Library. Staring at the glistening stars was the best way for Jack to, for once, relax. There were no stars now of course, but just being in the room could calm his mind.

Acolytes weren’t really allowed there, but the Carter name always managed to crack open doors that would otherwise remain firmly locked. The fact that other Acolytes couldn’t come here was one of the reasons Jack loved it. Emily had no problem getting in either; after a lifetime of blatantly the ignoring rules, she had managed to crack open a few doors herself.

Emily scanned the hundreds of Astronomy books filled the extravagant shelves on the ochre walls, looking for any sign of movement. As she neared the centre of the room, she tilted her head skywards, savouring the morning sun. It was as if there was no ceiling at all with the delicately arched glass letting in streams of golden light. While Emily loved her home in the Library, there were often times when she wished that she lived somewhere out doors, like a farm or forest. The Library held many treasures and they had to be protected from the elements. As the Library had grown over the centuries enclosed walkways and halls had been constructed to allow a Scholar to go from one end of the Library to the other without stepping a foot outside. This meant that no mud or rain or snow could be traipsed in to harm the precious parchment and paper: no birds or bugs could find their way in to tear at the ancient scrolls. But it also meant that you could never feel a cool breeze whip through your hair or take a fresh breath of air. There was also little sun. There were a few dirty windows that let in a smidge of light now and again and even a few out-door gardens for growing herbs for Medicine and vegetables for the kitchens. However those gardens were miles away on the other side of the Library and not even Emily was stupid enough to risk going there for a bit of sunlight. Besides, it wasn’t like the Library was constantly shrouded in darkness. Millions of candles and thousands of gas lamps flooded the bookshelves with light. But although flames of candles and gas lamps were pretty, nothing could compare to the glow of raw sunlight.

 

            Emily sighed and headed over the pine wood floor to the back of the room where she knew Jack liked to sit. She whispered his name and listen to the echo cascading around the curved walls.

“Here,” came the reluctant reply. Emily whirled and saw Jack curled up with a cushion under a portrait of Master Alfrid Archer (who had pioneered the construction of the Stargazing room) charting the stars.

 

“What do you want?” Jack sulked as she approached him.

            “I want to talk to you,” Emily told him.

            “Well I don’t want to talk to you,” Jack snapped.

            “Then will you just listen?” Emily pleaded. She took his silence as a yes and began to tell him what had happened after Jack left – the truths Scholar Young had revealed. “He believes that magic exists and that humans are capable of wielding it.”

“But that’s impossible!” Jack barked before he could stop himself.

“Says who?” Emily asked indignantly, forgetting that she herself had said the same thing not long ago.

“The Council, the Masters, every Scholar who’s ever lived,” Jack listed.

“Scholar Young has found books in the Tunnels that say the Library was built with magic so maybe the Masters are wrong. And from what Scholar Young says, we can’t trust the Council.”

“You mean we can’t trust my father,” said Jack bitterly. Emily sighed and looked him dead in the eyes, stealing herself for what she was about to say.

“Jack, I know you don’t want to believe it but isn’t there anything that your father has ever said or done, even the slightest thing that might suggest Scholar Young is telling the truth?”

 

Jack opened his mouth to answer and then shut it. He had been about to say ‘No,’ when the altered logbook had crept into his thoughts like a rat. If what Scholar Young had said was true, then it would make sense for his father to alter the records. He would be one of the few people with the knowledge and power to do so undetected anyway. It was just unlucky that it was Jack who had been going over that particular book.

“There’s something you should know,” Jack murmured and told her all he had found.

 

            “Don’t you see,” blurted Emily when he had finished. “This proves it!”

            “This proves nothing,” Jack insisted. Emily laughed incredulously, as she often did when Jack stuck hard and fast by the rules.

            “After everything you just told me, how can you not believe that Scholar Young is telling the truth?”

            “I don’t know what to believe, Emily.” His head thundered with pain just thinking about it all and he was finding it hard to breathe properly as an invisible force closed around his throat. “My father can’t have done it! He makes medicine, he heals people - he doesn’t have time to be murdering people and plotting evil schemes!” Jack thought his heart was going to explode from its ribcage and wondered how Emily couldn’t hear it beating like a drum.

“Calm down, Jack, please,” begged Emily, who was fighting back tears herself. She always got like this when she argued with her best friend. “Look, I understand that you can’t believe your father was involved but I can’t believe that Master Crick died the way he did. But I do know one way we can find out the truth.” Jack fixed her with an icy glare and Emily took that as her que to continue. “Scholar Young said that Master Crick died to protect books that told the truth about how the Library was built. If we find those then we know that everything Young said was true. If we don’t find them, then we will know he was lying and that your father is innocent. But we won’t know anything unless we try to find those books. Agreed?”

            Jack thought for a moment. If they found the books, they would prove something he wasn’t sure he was ready to face. On the other hand, how could he spend his days with doubt nagging at his brain? He had to know either way. Slowly, he reached out a hand.

            “Agreed,” he said. Emily grinned at him and clasped his hand, friends once more.

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