Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret (12 page)

BOOK: Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret
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he mending workshop was quiet. Old Zeb had left Archie to lock up. Archie turned the day’s events over in his mind. He thought about his strange meeting with the Lost Books Department. He was sure that Gideon Hawke and Wolfus Bone suspected something. Had they guessed he was hiding a book?

Archie suddenly felt very alone. He desperately wanted to tell his cousins that he was a book whisperer but he wasn’t sure how they’d react. Would they think he was imagining it or making it up? If only he had some proof.

He took out his book and put it on the bench. The odd thing was that although he had heard the other magical books whisper, he had never heard his book speak. He wondered why. If he was right and the magician had sent it to him
because of his special talent, this seemed strange.

‘Hello,’ he said. ‘Can you hear me?’

There was no reply.

‘If I’m supposed to be a book whisperer, why can’t I talk to you?’


‘Look, if you don’t talk to me, then I’m going to hand you in to Gideon Hawke in Lost Books first thing in the morning, which is probably what I should have done in the first place.’

Still there was no reply.

‘That’s settled then.’ Archie turned away to put out the lights. But just as he did, he heard a gentle voice.

‘Hello Archie,’ it said. ‘I am so glad you came to get me. I was really frightened.’

Archie stopped in his tracks. ‘Who are you?’

‘That’s not important at the moment,’ said the voice. ‘All you need to know is that there are people who want my power, and who will go to any lengths to get it. But they must never have it. You are the only one I can trust.’

‘But why me?’ asked Archie.

‘Because you have the gift. You are a book whisperer and only a book whisperer can save me.’

‘But there are others in the museum with magical powers – Gideon Hawke, for one, and Wolfus Bone,’ protested Archie. ‘Can’t they help you?’

‘No! Hawke and Bone can’t be trusted. They desire my power for themselves.’

Archie’s eyes narrowed. The almanac had tried to turn him against Old Zeb and that had been a lie. Was this book any more trustworthy?

‘What is this power you speak of?’ Archie asked.

‘It is the power that your father was afraid of. But it is nothing to fear. It is the power you were born to wield. It is your destiny.’

‘What destiny? What am I meant to do?’

‘You will understand when the time comes.’

‘What do you want from me?’ Archie demanded.


Archie stared at the book. It was still and quiet, but he hadn’t imagined that voice. Maybe it was time to tell his cousins his secret after all. He didn’t think he could carry it on his own any longer.


Bramble and Thistle were waiting for him outside Quill’s. They’d decided to stick together whilst Archie was carrying the book, just in case there was any trouble.

As they walked home, it all came pouring out.

‘I should have told you before,’ said Archie guiltily, ‘but I didn’t know how.’

‘A book whisperer!’ exclaimed Thistle, his eyes wide with wonder.

Archie felt awkward. ‘Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous.’

‘But book whispering is so cool!’ said Thistle. ‘I mean, no one’s been able to do that for centuries!’

Archie shrugged. ‘I think it is why the magician sent me the book.’

‘But how could he have known that you’d turn out to be a book whisperer?’ asked Bramble. ‘It was four hundred years before you were even born.’

‘I know, it sounds crazy,’ admitted Archie. ‘But somehow he knew and sent me the book to protect. He was a magician, after all. Anyway, I thought I was protecting it from Greaders but now it has warned me not to trust Hawke and Bone. Do you think there could be something sinister going on inside the museum?’

‘Maybe that’s what Dad was hinting at the other night,’ said Bramble.

‘Hang on, though,’ said Thistle. ‘If the magician sent you the book because you are a book whisperer then perhaps there’s something you’re meant to do with it that only a book whisperer can do.’

Archie felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. ‘Like what?’

Thistle shrugged. ‘I don’t know. That’s what we have to find out. But whatever it is, you’re not
on your own, Arch. Bramble and I will help you with it.’

Archie gave a thin smile. With his two cousins beside him he didn’t feel so daunted.

‘And while we’re sharing secrets,’ Thistle continued, ‘I’ve got one for you.

‘I did some digging around about that almanac. We know it came from the Ripleys so I asked Dad – he knows all about the old Flame-Keeping families. When Arthur Ripley tried to steal the Terrible Tomes it was discovered that the Ripleys had been hoarding magic books for years. And there are rumours that they’re up to their old tricks again. Their family home is at Ripley Hall in Cornwall. They have a private library there – all very hush, hush.’

‘But I thought hoarding magic books was against the Lore?’ said Archie, making a mental note to look up Arthur Ripley in the reference book about collectors.

‘It is,’ said Bramble. ‘Keeping magic books that haven’t been classified is a form of Greading.’

‘Exactly,’ said Thistle. ‘But Dad says no one can prove it. And there’s something else. When Arthur Ripley was head of Lost Books he had an assistant.’

‘I never heard that before!’ said Bramble.

‘Well no, you wouldn’t have,’ said Thistle. ‘You
see Arthur Ripley’s assistant was Alex Greene – Archie’s dad.’

‘What?’ gasped Archie, shocked. He felt his stomach twist.

‘After he was apprenticed to Old Zeb, Alex went to work with Ripley,’ Thistle continued. ‘But he left under a cloud. Dad didn’t want to talk about it, but there were rumours that he was working closely with Ripley.’

Archie’s stomach lurched again. He felt sick. Just as he thought he knew who his father was, he felt like the rug was being pulled from under him. ‘Oh that’s great,’ he said, ‘so my dad was working with Arthur Ripley when he tried to steal the Terrible Tomes and set fire to the museum!’

‘Hold on,’ said Bramble. ‘We don’t know what really happened. Your dad’s not here to tell his side of the story so I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt. And if he was, then I’m sure he had a good reason.

‘And talking about people getting into the crypt, that reminds me. Vincent von Herring has called an emergency meeting. Apparently, the museum elders are so worried about the break-in at the Aisle of White that they are beefing up security at Mothballs. All apprentices have to attend.’


Later, when he went to bed, Archie was still thinking about what Thistle had said about his father. It bothered him. Had Alex Greene been involved in starting the fire in the museum twelve years earlier?

He took out the shoebox with his father’s things and rummaged through it until he found the photograph of Alex and Loretta. He inspected it minutely. Quill’s had hardly changed at all. His father and Loretta looked so happy. He wondered what had caused the rift between brother and sister that had kept him away from his cousins for so many years.

Archie picked up the scrapbook and flicked through the pages. There were some faded photographs and newspaper cuttings. The last entry was a photograph of a baby in a pram. ‘Archie aged six weeks,’ said a handwritten caption underneath. He turned the page and as he did a sheet of paper fell out.

It was a letter dated the day Archie was born. It was from Loretta to his father.

Dearest Alex,

Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby boy! I know that you will be a wonderful father to him and his sister.

You must be feeling many emotions
today – great joy and great apprehension. I know that you consulted the Books of Destiny and that they did not tell you what you hoped for. But the future is shaped by what we do today as much as by the past.

Archie is just a baby at the moment. I know that you will do whatever you can to protect him. I understand your desire to keep him away from magic, but I beg you to let him take his place at the museum. He needs to understand our world – the world that he was born into. And he needs his family. Please don’t hide him away.

Your loving sister,


Archie slipped the note back into the book and closed it. He did not understand it completely but it was clear that his father had discovered something about his newborn son that troubled him. What had alarmed his dad enough that he decided to keep Archie away from the world of magic?

Archie examined the black-and-white
of Alex and Loretta again. Loretta had said Archie resembled his father. He looked closely at the photograph. He could see the likeness. He wondered if his father had different coloured
eyes just like him. Among the Flame Keepers, mismatched eyes were seen as a sign that someone was born with magical powers – or touched with magic. Was his father touched with magic? Had Alex Greene been a book whisperer, too? Was that his secret?

And then Archie had another thought. What if being a book whisperer had made his father do terrible things. He was Arthur Ripley’s apprentice after all. Perhaps he had something to do with Ripley’s plot to steal the Terrible Tomes. If so, his father might have been tormented with guilt. And then to cap it all, his son was born with mismatched eyes. He would have known that he was also likely to be a book whisperer. That might have been what spooked him. Or was there some other secret that his father knew?

What ever it was, Archie had to know. And he had an idea how he might find out.

t Quill’s the next day, Pink was checking firemarks. She glanced at Archie’s hand before making him a motion potion.

‘Orders from the museum elders,’ she said. ‘Can’t be too careful with Greaders about.’

Archie nodded. When he arrived at the Great Gallery, he found the place subdued. The apprentices were going about their usual tasks but there was none of the chatter and high jinx that normally accompanied their work. It was as if all the fun had been sucked out of the place. The break-in at the Aisle of White was weighing heavily on people’s minds. If the bookshop wasn’t safe, then where was?

As Archie passed a group of apprentices, he overheard a whispered conversation.

‘My parents say that the Greaders are getting
bolder,’ confided a boy whom Archie didn’t recognise. ‘They say that if there’s any more trouble then they will keep me at home.’

‘My mum says that the museum will be next,’ said Meredith Merrydance. ‘The Greaders won’t stop until they find whatever book they’re after. She says it’s the worst she can remember.’

‘That’s the least of it,’ announced Enid Drew. ‘My dad says that if this Greader plot succeeds then Mothballs will be finished.’

‘Well I heard that Professor von Herring is going to close the museum and send all the apprentices home because it’s too dangerous,’ said Meredith. ‘Apparently, that’s what the meeting is about.’

Archie hurried on. Glancing quickly around to make sure he was unobserved, he opened one of the double doors and slipped into the Scriptorium. As he stepped inside, the torches on the walls ignited, lighting the room.

Archie saw the glass dome at the far end containing the Books of Destiny. But it wasn’t the future that interested him. It was the past. Bramble had said that the past was best left alone, but he had to know what happened when he was born. He needed to know why his parents had felt it necessary to keep him away from the museum.

He turned to
The Book of Yore
and spoke to it in what he hoped was a clear commanding voice.

‘What frightened my parents when I was born?’

The book was silent and still, its dark-brown cover firmly closed.

Archie tried again. ‘Why didn’t they tell me about the magical books?’ he demanded.

The book remained closed, but Archie heard something – a voice so quiet that he might have imagined it. Like the wind blowing through the brittle branches of an ancient long-dead tree, it sounded as old as time itself.

‘The past is gone,’ the voice rasped. ‘Those who disturb it cannot change it, but they may be changed by it.’

Archie knew it was a warning, but his need to know spurred him on.

‘That is a chance I have to take,’ he declared, hoping he sounded braver than he felt.

‘Very well.’

The Book of Yore
suddenly flipped open. Its pages turned as if some unseen hand rifled through them. Just as suddenly as it had started, it stopped, and slammed shut again. The book was still, but a bookmark had appeared in its pages.

‘What is shown to the curious is not always what they hoped for,’ rasped the voice. ‘
The Book
of Yore
reveals what they need to know, not what they wish to know. Your page is marked. I ask you again, do you choose to consult the past?’

‘Yes, I do,’ said Archie.

‘So be it!’

Archie stepped forward and opened the book to the page with the bookmark.

A date was written in neat copperplate script. Archie had expected it to be his birthday, but
The Book of Yore
had opened to a date four hundred years earlier, 15 March 1603.

Archie traced the date with his finger, and the surface of the book rippled as if he was disturbing the surface of a pond. His finger disappeared into the page, followed by his hand. He felt a cold sensation working up his arm. He tried to resist but the force was too strong. By now his arm had disappeared up to the elbow and still he was being pulled.

Archie tried to wrench his arm free, but his other hand touched the page and disappeared. The tug was too great for him to resist. He closed his eyes. Too late, he realised what sort of book
The Book of Yore
was – a drawing book! There was a rushing sound in his ears like wind and he was sucked into its pages. He felt himself falling.


When he opened his eyes again he was in a dark, book-lined room. A candle guttered and in the flickering light he could see an old man with a long white beard and a black skullcap sitting at a table. He was staring at a crystal pendant in his hand, deep in concentration. Archie recognised the symbol engraved on the pendant.

Sitting across the table from the old man was a younger man. He had his back to Archie so he could not see his face.

‘You promised to bring me the book written in the language of angels,’ the old man said.

‘And here it is,’ the younger man replied, sliding a book towards him. It was the same book that Horace Catchpole had delivered to Archie.

The old man rubbed his hands together. ‘At last!’ he cried. ‘I will be able to speak with the angels!’

The old man’s hands grasped the book, but the younger man pulled it back. ‘We had an agreement,’ he declared.

The old man looked up. ‘And I have kept my
part of the bargain,’ he said. ‘I used my scrying skills to discover the book whisperer as you asked. I have his name, even though he will not be born for another four hundred years.’

He reached for the book again. The other man still held it back.

‘The book whisperer’s name?’

The old man looked at him imploringly. ‘I cannot tell you that. It goes against the natural Lores of Magic,’ he protested.

‘I do not care about the Lores of Magic!’ scoffed the younger man. ‘If you want the book you will give me his name.’

The old man hesitated, torn between desire and duty. Desire won.

‘Archie Greene.’

The room went dark. Archie felt himself falling again and closed his eyes. When he opened them, he was back in the Scriptorium and
The Book of Yore
was firmly closed.

BOOK: Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret
12.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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