Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret (13 page)

BOOK: Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret
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rchie found it hard to concentrate for the rest of the day. His thoughts were on what he’d seen in
The Book of Yore
. He was so distracted that he forgot to put water in the kettle and it boiled dry, and then he nearly put a magical book in the furnace instead of a log. In the end, Old Zeb sent him home early.

‘I don’t know what’s got into you,’ the old bookbinder said. ‘See you tomorrow – and remember to bring your head with you,’ he added, shaking his own in disbelief.

For the rest of the evening Archie could think about nothing else. He must have been sent the book
he was a book whisperer. But what he was meant to do with it and why it had frightened his father so much was still a mystery.

Loretta’s note to her brother said that Alex
Greene had looked into one of the Books of Destiny, but it didn’t say which one. Could Archie’s father have consulted
The Book of Yore
? If so, had he been shown the same thing as Archie? And if he had, why had this caused him to keep his son away from the museum and his cousins?

Another thought occurred to him. What if his father had not consulted the past at all: what if he had looked into one of the other Books of Destiny and seen the future? Could Alex Greene have foreseen some terrible event that hadn’t happened yet and tried to change the path his son was on? Whatever it was that Alex Greene had seen, it had alarmed him enough to keep his son away from magic. Archie knew he might be in danger, but he didn’t know how.

That night, he dreamed that he was trapped inside a glass cage that was filling up with sand. He was inside the hourglass on the spine of
The Book of Reckoning
and could not get out. He woke in a cold sweat, relieved to find he was safely tucked up in the bedroom he shared with Thistle.


‘Right,’ said Old Zeb the next day, taking a mended reference book from the clamp. ‘Put
this back on the shelf. I’m just popping up to make sure Marjorie is all right.’

Marjorie had not been the same since the breakin. Old Zeb said her nerves were bad. In fact, everyone involved with the museum seemed to have got the jitters.

As Archie replaced the book, he noticed
Magic Collectors Past & Present
on the same shelf. It reminded him that he had been meaning to look up Arthur Ripley. He took the book down and skimmed through the pages. The first name he came to was Alexander the Great.

Probably the most famous of all the magic collectors, Alexander sought out magical texts and instruments from the territories he conquered …

A line-drawing of Alexander showed a
young warrior. Archie turned the page. A very different face confronted him. It was angular with hollow cheeks, a hooked nose and dull black eyes. Archie read the entry.

A collector of dark magic, Barzak was the most feared warlock of his time and was responsible for causing the magical conflagration that burned down the Great Library of Alexandria.

Archie shivered. ‘Well I certainly wouldn’t want to meet him on a dark night!’ he muttered to himself.

He looked at the index and ran his finger down the list of names. There were several Ripleys including a Morton Ripley and a George Ripley. But it was Arthur Ripley he wanted to know about. He turned to the entry.

The face that stared back at him bore a striking resemblance to Arabella. Arthur Ripley had the same cold grey eyes.

Among the most infamous modern collectors was the English book antiquarian Arthur Ripley. Ripley used his position as Head of Lost Books at the Museum of Magical Miscellany in Oxford to search for the Terrible Tomes, the seven most dangerous books ever written. Ripley is believed to have died in a fire at the museum, although his body was never recovered. This has led to persistent but completely unsubstantiated rumours that Ripley is still alive.

There was no mention of his assistant Alex Greene. Archie turned the page and was about to close the book when something else caught his eye.

He felt his heart skip a beat. There it was – the mysterious symbol! The same one he had seen on the crystal pendant.

Beneath it was a short explanation: ‘The glyph or symbol designed by John Dee to express the mystical unity of all creation.’

Next to it was a portrait of an old man with sparkling blue eyes and a long beard of purest white. He wore a black skullcap and a large white ruff around his neck in the Elizabethan style. Hanging from a silver chain around his neck was a diamondshaped pendant made from green crystal. It was the old man that Archie had seen in
The Book of Yore.

Below the portrait was a brief description of his life.

John Dee (1527–1609). Dee was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, alchemist and navigator. One of the most learned men of his age, Dee was Queen Elizabeth I’s court magician.

Magician! Archie read on.

Dee amassed one of the largest private libraries in Europe, including many rare and magical books. He dedicated his collection to Queen Elizabeth, whom Dee referred to affectionately as Gloriana.

Dee was famous for his use of crystal balls and other scrying instruments to see into the future. Several of his crystal balls are now displayed in the British Museum, but his favourite scrying crystal pendant, the Emerald Eye, has never been found. Dee spent the latter part of his life trying to find a legendary book from the Great Library of Alexandria, which he believed would allow him to speak to angels. His association with Greaders tarnished his reputation within the magical community and he died penniless.


‘I’ve found the magician!’ Archie announced to his cousins later. ‘His name is John Dee, and he was Elizabeth I’s court magician. He collected magic books. But he was also fascinated by their power. It is his symbol on the clasp and on the scroll, so he must be the one who sent me the book.’

‘But we still don’t know what he wanted you to do with it,’ Thistle replied, ‘or how you should use your book-whispering powers.’

‘I know,’ Archie said. ‘But we’re a lot closer to finding out. The riddle holds the key, I’m sure of it.’

hen the emergency meeting took place the next evening at Quill’s, the room was full of worried faces. The apprentices were talking among themselves in whispered voices.

Gideon Hawke, Wolfus Bone and some of the other museum elders were seated at the back of the room. Archie thought he recognised a short man with a goatee beard wearing a tweed suit. He was sitting with a grey-haired woman.

‘That man next to Hawke,’ Archie whispered to Bramble. ‘I think he was in the photo Old Zeb showed me …’

‘Yes, that’s Dr Motley Brown,’ confirmed Bramble, ‘head of Natural Magic. And he’s talking to Feodora Graves, head of Supernatural Magic.’

Vincent von Herring strode onto the raised stage. He held up his hand for silence.

‘Good evening apprentices,’ he said with a curt nod. ‘I do not wish to alarm you again, but we have some important information to tell you.’ He glanced across at the other elders. Their faces were grim. Von Herring took a deep breath.

‘We believe that the museum is under attack,’ he said. There were horrified gasps from around the room. Von Herring continued.

‘You are aware of the break-in at the Aisle of White. We believe that something or someone is also stealing magic from the museum. We must assume that the enemy has found a way to infiltrate our defences.’

There were more gasps around the room as the apprentices contemplated the magnitude of what they had just heard. Trouble outside the museum was one thing, but if the Greaders had found a way inside its protected walls, that was far more worrying. When the murmuring had died down von Herring spoke again.

‘If Greaders have breached the museum’s security then no one is safe. As the head of Dangerous Books, I have called a special meeting of the elders to decide what is to be done. Until then no apprentices are to enter the museum on their own. You must have someone with you at all times.

‘We are also stepping up security in the crypt. I
don’t need to tell you how dangerous it would be if someone were to open one of the Terrible Tomes and release its dark magic. The consequences could be catastrophic.

‘The four Terrible Tomes that we have recovered are safely under lock and key inside the crypt, which is located in the Lost Books Department, the most secure part of the museum. No apprentices are allowed inside the crypt. Only the museum elders have keys to open it.

‘Let me reassure you, too, that each of the Tomes is locked inside an iron cage which has enough charms and enchantments on it to keep out an army of Greaders.’

There was more murmuring among the apprentices. Vincent von Herring raised his voice.

‘We are doing everything possible to defend the museum from the current attack,’ he continued. ‘Rest assured, we will prevail. Now, I would ask you all to return to your duties. Carry on as normal and report anything suspicious. Thank you ladies and gentlemen.’


There was a nervous buzz as they filed out of the meeting. Bramble and Archie ordered a couple of hot chocolates to cheer themselves up and sat
down in two battered armchairs that weren’t seats of learning. Quill’s was emptying as people drifted off home.

‘Do you think they will come up with a plan to defend the museum?’ Archie asked.

‘They’ll think of something,’ murmured Bramble, ‘they always do.’

Archie felt a bit better. ‘Well I hope they come up with something soon,’ he said. ‘The books in the Aisle of White are really frightened. I haven’t heard a peep out of them in days. I wonder if I should tell von Herring about being a book whisperer. But it might just make him suspicious.’

Bramble was staring over Archie’s shoulder. She spoke in a whisper. ‘Talking about suspicious,’ she said.

‘Who?’ asked Archie.


Archie looked up to see Aurelius Rusp talking to Pink.

‘I’ll take a werewolf’s revenge in the Dragon’s Claw,’ he barked.

‘He’s going to the museum,’ Bramble whispered.

‘I wonder what for?’ Archie said.

‘There’s only one way to find out!’ said Bramble. ‘Come on!’

‘But you heard von Herring – we’re not allowed in the museum on our own,’ said Archie.

‘We won’t be on our own,’ smiled Bramble. ‘We’ll be with Rusp.’

Archie was about to protest again, but at that moment Pink moved through the permission wall to serve a customer at the front of house, and Bramble sprang out of her chair.

‘Quick,’ she hissed, ‘this is our chance. You keep an eye out while I mix us a motion potion.’

She hopped up onto the bar, swung her legs over and slid down the other side. Then she reached down two mugs and poured a couple of crimson drops from the dark red bottle.

‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing?’ whispered Archie. He cast an anxious glance around the room in case anyone was watching. ‘I mean, that’s pretty advanced stuff.’

‘Shhhh, I’ve seen Pink do it loads of times,’ Bramble hissed over her shoulder. She took down the blue bottle and poured a tiny drop of the clear liquid into each mug. Finally, she took down the big black bottle and added a dash. A cackling sound and a thick white cloud like mist came from the contents of the mugs.

‘Told you,’ she smiled. ‘Fruit shot or a

‘Er … Choc-tail,’ said Archie. ‘Just hurry up!’

Bramble pulled on the porcelain handle and topped up the mugs with steaming dark chocolate.

‘There,’ she said, handing Archie his motion potion.

She had barely swung her legs back over the bar when Pink came bustling back through the permission wall.

‘Hey, what are you two looking so pleased about?’ she said.

‘Er, nothing,’ said Bramble, smiling sweetly but looking shifty.

The two children moved away from the bar, nursing their drinks. Archie held his tool bag over his shoulder.

‘I can’t see Rusp anywhere,’ he said, scanning the room. The place was virtually deserted now. ‘He must have gone already.’

‘Yes, and we’d better get a move on, too,’ said Bramble. She pulled back the curtain to the box seats.

Archie fastened his seat belt and eyed his mug uncertainly. ‘Are you sure about this?’ he asked. ‘You said that the seats of learning can be unstable unless you have the right motion potion.’

Bramble smiled. ‘What can possibly go wrong?’ She chinked her mug against Archie’s. ‘Bottoms up!’ She grinned.

particularly bumpy flight on the box seats later, the two cousins were standing in the Great Hall. There was no sign of Rusp. Archie was still feeling nauseous from the ride and decided that hot chocolate and the box seats really didn’t mix, especially with amateurs mixing the motion potions.

He was about to mention this to Bramble when there was a loud crash like a large piece of furniture being thrown against a wall. It was followed by the sound of splintering wood and a rushing noise like flames racing up a chimney.

Suddenly there was a blood-chilling howl.

‘It’s coming from the dark magic section in the West Gallery!’ Bramble cried.

They heard another howl, rising to the high, wavering, full-throated cry of a wild animal, and
ending in a low snarl. Another crash and the sound of more splintering wood.

‘Whatever it is, it’s heading this way!’ Bramble exclaimed.

‘We have to try to stop it before it does any more damage!’ cried Archie.

He was already racing towards the sound. Bramble took a deep breath and dashed after him. They ran up a marble staircase and turned into a corridor that connected the West Gallery to the rest of the museum.

As they turned the corner they saw an enormous wolf-like creature, as tall as a small pony, with gleaming yellow eyes and shaggy grey fur. Its pointed ears looked like horns and fire belched from its large round nostrils.

Around it was devastation. Several bookcases had been smashed to the ground. There were small pockets of fire burning around the room, and several books had been turned into charcoal and ash.

‘What is that thing?’ shrieked Bramble.

‘It’s a flarewolf!’ Archie yelled back. ‘I saw a picture of one in that reference book. Part dragon, part wolf. Very nasty.’

‘It must be a pop-out!’ Bramble hissed.

The flarewolf was scanning the room with its gleaming eyes. It threw back its head and
howled again. Two flares shot from its nostrils like a flamethrower, setting fire to a large oriental tapestry on the wall.

‘Why isn’t it ezaporating?’ Bramble called, moving closer to her cousin.

‘I don’t know but I think we should RUN!’ shouted Archie.

At that moment the flarewolf heard them. Its large head whipped around and it fixed the two cousins with its glittering yellow eyes. Archie felt the fear well up inside him.

‘Did I mention run!’ he cried again, as they darted back in the direction they had just come.

Bramble sprinted back along the corridor and up another staircase towards the Lost Books Department. Archie raced after her. The creature howled again, and Archie felt a rush of searing hot air ruffle his hair. The two cousins ducked around the corner as the flarewolf’s flaming breath hit the wall behind them.

The flarewolf had followed them and was now watching them from less than ten feet away.

‘Quick, open that door,’ Bramble cried.

Archie tried to open the door but it was locked.

‘We’re cornered,’ he said. ‘Now what?’

The flarewolf was stalking them. Its mouth was open and long strands of drool dripped onto the floor.

Bramble was staring at the beast. ‘I just don’t understand how it escaped,’ she said. ‘I mean who would let something like that out?’

The flarewolf fixed her with its yellow eyes. In its head it could hear a voice. ‘Kill the girl!’ it said. The flarewolf did not know where the voice was coming from, only that it must obey. It crouched low on its haunches, snarling.

‘Now what?’ gasped Archie.

‘I’ll think of something,’ said Bramble.

‘Good,’ said Archie, ‘but can you hurry up. I don’t think wishful thinking is going to keep us safe.’

‘Keep us safe!’ cried Bramble. ‘Brilliant, Archie. My keepsafe!’

She slipped off her bracelet and grasped the tiny golden bow in her hand. With her left arm straight, she drew back an imaginary bowstring.

The flarewolf wrinkled its large muzzle in a snarl and advanced towards them. Archie took a step backwards and realised he was up against the wall with nowhere else to go. At that moment Bramble released her right hand. To Archie’s amazement a tiny golden arrow arced through the air and buried itself in the flarewolf’s leg. The creature howled with pain and ripped at the arrow with its teeth.

‘That really was brilliant!’ cried Archie. ‘Now, run!’

They took off again as fast as they could, racing down a flight of marble stairs to the East Gallery. The flarewolf threw back its head and howled, sending jets of flame into the air. They could hear it leaving a trail of destruction as it gave pursuit.

‘Quick, in here!’ cried Bramble, opening a door off the gallery.

The two cousins ducked through into a dark corridor and Bramble slammed the door behind them.

There was a scratching sound on the other side of the door then another long howl and they heard the flarewolf direct its flames at the door. The wood crackled and the handle glowed red hot.

‘It won’t take long to burn its way through,’ said Archie. ‘Where are we?

‘This corridor leads to the archive.’

‘Is there another way out?’

Bramble shook her head. ‘No, the archive is next to the crypt, which is always kept locked. You heard von Herring – only the museum elders have keys. There is meant to be a secret entrance to the crypt but it’s not from inside the museum and it’s guarded night and day. The only other way out of here is back the way we came.’

Archie glanced at his cousin. Her hair was smoking and her face was smudged with soot
smuts. She looked pale and shaken but she was putting a brave face on it.

‘I guess we’re trapped then,’ Archie whispered.


On the other side of the door the flarewolf heard the voice again inside its dark heart. It was the same voice that had released it and told it to find the children.

‘Kill the girl but bring the boy!’ the voice commanded. ‘Archie Greene must live!’

The beast gave a low growl. One more blast from its flames and the door would give way. It was about to flare again when its sensitive ears heard something behind it. Human voices.

‘What on earth … ?’ Gideon Hawke exclaimed.

The head of Lost Books had entered the gallery. He could see the devastation and in another moment he would see the creature that had caused it.

‘Something is loose in the museum!’ cried Wolfus Bone.

‘It’s a flarewolf!’ Hawke muttered.

The flarewolf bared its teeth.

Hawke reached inside his pocket and produced a popper stopper. ‘Just as well I brought this.’

He pointed the glass phial at the slavering creature and removed the stopper. A milky white
vapour immediately surrounded the flarewolf. The creature threw back its head and flared again, scorching the air with its fiery breath. The force of its flames dispelled the white vapour, driving it back into the phial.

‘It’s too strong for an ordinary popper stopper,’ cried Wolfus Bone.

The creature let out a long low howl. It fixed its eyes on the two men. It crouched, ready to spring. Wolfus Bone took a step back.

‘Wait,’ cried Hawke. ‘The beast is strong, but it has not won yet.’

He held the popper stopper to his mouth and whispered into it. The phial glowed yellow and regurgitated its white vapour, billowing out in a thick cloud-like smoke. Once again the vapour surrounded the flarewolf but this time it did not recede when the beast’s flames touched it. The flarewolf’s eyes glinted with malice. But in less than a second the vapour had been sucked back into its glass container and the flarewolf with it.

‘That’s better,’ said Hawke.

Wolfus Bone looked relieved. ‘That was close,’ he said. ‘The dark magic that released the flarewolf is strong.’

Gideon Hawke held up the glass phial in his hand. It was glowing red. ‘Yes,’ he mused. ‘The beast will have to be handled carefully. I will
keep it in my study until it can be returned to its book.’

On the other side of the door, Archie and Bramble heard the two men talking. Bramble removed her hat and looked at a large scorch hole. Archie put his finger to his lips and gestured to the other side of the door.

‘That’s made a mess,’ Gideon Hawke declared, gazing around at the damage caused by the flarewolf. ‘But it could have been worse.’

‘Yes, it could,’ agreed Wolfus Bone. ‘It could have burned the museum down! But what released that foul creature? And why didn’t it simply ezaporate, Gideon?’

‘There is powerful dark magic at work here,’ said Hawke. He looked troubled. ‘And if we’re right then we can expect more of these attacks. We must arm ourselves. And I mean something more potent than a popper stopper. I have weapons in my study. Whatever released the flarewolf is very strong indeed.’

Bone shook his head. ‘The disturbances began when Archie Greene started his apprenticeship. Almost to the day! I’m sure the boy is concealing a book and the dark magic is connected to it.’

In the passageway out of sight, Archie and Bramble’s eyes met. Archie had a horrible feeling that Wolfus Bone was right. The trouble
started when he arrived. Had he brought the dark magic into the museum?

‘It still doesn’t mean that Archie is to blame for the attacks,’ Hawke objected.

‘I’m not sure the boy knows the part he has played,’ said Bone. ‘Perhaps he is being used.’

Archie had heard enough. More than enough. Was he to blame for all the bad things that had happened since he arrived in Oxford? Maybe that was why Gran and his father had tried to keep him away from the museum. Was that what his father had discovered in the Books of Destiny?

BOOK: Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret
7.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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