Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret (17 page)

BOOK: Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret
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n the gloom of the underground cavern, Archie stared at the ghost of John Dee.

‘Why are you here?’

‘I made a terrible mistake,’ said the ghost.

‘Yes, I know,’ said Archie. Gideon Hawke told me.

Dee hung his head. ‘I am so very sorry. I should never have involved you in all this. I cannot rest until
The Book of Souls
is safely returned to the museum and this great wrong is righted. But let me look at you. You must be the book whisperer I saw. Here,’ he said, indicating the silver pendant on its chain. In the centre was a green gemstone, which was giving off the dull green aura. ‘It is my scrying crystal. It is very powerful. It allows its owner to see the past, present and the future. It is yours now, take it.’

Archie felt the weight of the pendant in his open hand.

‘It comes with a warning, though,’ Dee’s ghost said. ‘No man should see too far into the future. It is a lesson I have learned the hard way. Use the crystal only when it is absolutely necessary. And never, ever use it to see your own destiny.’

‘It’s brought you nothing but misery,’ Archie said, gazing at the green gemstone in his hand. ‘I don’t think I want it.’

‘Very wise,’ said the ghost. ‘Your wisdom tells me that you are exactly the right person to have it. But understand Archie, there are others who will not respect the pendant’s power as you do. They must not get their hands on it. That’s why I have kept it hidden all these years. I give it to you as your keepsafe. It will protect you.’

Still Archie hesitated. ‘Take it,’ urged Dee. ‘You will need it.’

Reluctantly, Archie took the pendant and hung it around his neck.

Dee’s ghost nodded approvingly. ‘There are two other things that I must tell you. The first is that no Greader can resist the temptation to possess the pendant. Its power is too great. But anyone who tries to take it by force and breaks the chain is cursed by it.

‘The second thing you need to know is that you
are more powerful than you realise. The magic clasp on the book will obey a direct command from you.’ He paused. ‘
The Book of Souls
, where is it now?’

‘It is locked in the crypt with the other Terrible Tomes,’ Archie said.

A look of horror passed across Dee’s face. ‘No!’ he cried. ‘That’s what it craves. It wants to be with the others! But it must be kept away from them!’

Archie’s heart sank. ‘Then I have to stop it,’ he said.

‘No,’ cried Dee, alarmed. ‘Not you, Archie. You of all people must not go in there.’

But Archie was already running on into the shadows.


Wolfus Bone pursued the flarewolf through the dark corridors of the museum, his eyes fixed on the beast as it loped along in front of him.

As he entered one of the smaller galleries, he was met with a wall of flame, scorching the side of his face and chest. The flarewolf sprang at him, sending him sprawling, and knocking the blade from his hand. Bone lay on his back like some giant insect unable to right itself.

He could do nothing as the creature’s salivating
jaws closed on his throat. With his last breath Bone reached out for the shadow blade, his long fingers grasped for it in the darkness and felt its cold touch. Drawing it into the palm of his hand, he plunged the blade through the flarewolf in one upward motion. It felt like his hand was passing through fire. The flarewolf gave a high-pitched howl. It twisted and turned on the blade. Darkness spilled from it, like fetid subterranean fog. Neither liquid nor vapour, it oozed from the creature and evaporated in the light.

Wolfus Bone lay on his back gasping for air. He felt his own life draining from him. His side where the creature had wounded him ached with a dull pain. His head throbbed and his sight was blurred. He heard a sound, and someone knelt down beside him. He was too weak to see who it was, but he felt them wipe the darkness from his eyes.

‘Where is the flarewolf?’ Bone asked.

‘You have destroyed it,’ the voice said, soothingly.

A cup was held up to his mouth, and he heard a voice whisper, ‘Drink this. It will ease your pain.’

Bone opened his eyes and looked up into the face of Arabella Ripley. She smiled.

rchie held the pendant aloft so that its green glow lit his way. Before him were seven marble plinths, a large iron cage on each. Four of the cages contained books whose covers were shut tight. But the fifth plinth was empty and the door of its cage was open.

A man stood beside it. In one hand he held a set of silver keys and in the other he clutched
The Book of Souls
. An eerie blue light spilled from it.

‘Professor von Herring,’ Archie cried. ‘Thank goodness you’re here. But aren’t you meant to be at the meeting with the museum elders?’

Von Herring smiled. ‘I left the meeting to look for you. Now that I have found you everything is going to be all right.’

‘But Professor,’ Archie said, ‘you don’t understand,
The Book of Souls
wants to be with
the other Terrible Tomes. That’s what it wanted all along. It’s trying to release their magic. We have to stop it.’

Von Herring gave him a pitying look. ‘No, Archie, it’s you who doesn’t understand.
The Book of Souls
is where it was always meant to be – and now that you are here too, we can begin.’

‘Wha— What? But we have to protect the museum,’ Archie said, backing away.

‘How very touching,’ said a voice behind him. Archie spun round and saw a figure standing in the shadows. Something was very wrong.

‘Who are you?’ Archie demanded.

‘Come now boy, surely you recognise the greatest magical book collector the world has ever known,’ the man sneered. Archie felt his stomach give a sickening twist as he recognised the cold, grey eyes.

‘You’re Arabella’s grandfather! But it can’t be,’ he gasped. ‘Arthur Ripley is dead!’

The man laughed. ‘That’s what I wanted you to believe. When I escaped from the fire I was barely alive. It took me years to recover, but now I’m ready to claim my greatest prize –
The Book of Souls

‘But how do you know about the book … ?’

‘It’s really very simple,’ said Ripley. ‘John Dee’s associate was my ancestor Morton Ripley and
he left a record of all their dealings. While I was recovering from my injuries I found it among the papers at Ripley Hall. Morton had arranged for
The Book of Souls
to be delivered to you on your twelfth birthday. He knew that one of the Ripley family would be there to collect the book and collect you – because you see Archie, you were always part of the plan.

‘You still don’t understand, do you?’ laughed Ripley. ‘I came back for
The Book of Souls
. But the book on its own is no use to me. My ancestor realised that when he found it in the collection at Ripley Hall.

‘He knew that only a gifted book whisperer could reveal its secrets and there hadn’t been one of those for centuries. So when he heard that the great magician John Dee was searching for the book, he had a brilliant idea. Dee was famous for his scrying skills. Why not use him to find the next great book whisperer?

‘The second part of his plan was even more brilliant. He instructed Folly & Catchpole to deliver the book to you so that you and
The Book of Souls
would arrive together. On the day the book was meant to be delivered we were waiting – my accomplice and I. But you didn’t show up and that idiot Screech didn’t know where the book was, so I had to be patient. Of course, we couldn’t allow
Screech to go around blabbing about what we were up to so we kept him quiet.’

‘But why did you grab Peter Quiggley?’ demanded Archie. ‘He knew nothing about it.’

‘Yes, well, one apprentice looks much like another,’ said Ripley. ‘We thought he was you but it soon became clear that he was clueless, so we threw the little shrimp back. And now you are here.’

Archie stepped away. He felt sick to his stomach. He realised he was caught in a trap.

Arthur Ripley smiled. ‘And now you are here, you
The Book of Souls
to release its last, and greatest, secret.’

‘Never!’ cried Archie, defiantly.

‘You will do as you are told,’ von Herring ordered.

‘And if I refuse?’

Ripley gave a cruel laugh. ‘Oh you won’t refuse,’ he said. ‘Because if you do your cousins will die.’

As he spoke, Archie was aware of other figures in the shadows. Von Herring pushed Bramble and Thistle forward. Their hands were bound and they were gagged. Archie stared into their wide, frightened eyes.

‘So you see, Archie, you really have no choice,’ said von Herring. He handed the silver keys to
Ripley and carefully placed
The Book of Souls
on the ground.

‘You will command the book if you value your cousins’ lives.’

Archie stared desperately at Bramble and Thistle’s terrified faces.

‘All right,’ Archie said. ‘But what makes you think I can even open the book?’

‘Because you are a book whisperer,’ said von Herring. ‘You have the power. Now, hurry. It won’t take the museum elders long to realise that I am not at the meeting and they will come looking for us.’

Archie gazed at
The Book of Souls
. Its cover was secured by the silver clasp with John Dee’s symbol etched on it. He knew what the symbol meant now. It was a warning. The old magician had not wanted the book to be opened, but Archie had no choice.

‘Open!’ he commanded under his breath. ‘My cousins are depending on me.’

With a click, the clasp opened. The strap with the clasp slithered onto the ground and the book’s cover sprang open.

‘Command the book to release its last secret!’ demanded Ripley. ‘Do it!’

Archie felt his panic rising. ‘But I don’t know how,’ he said.

‘I am disappointed in you, Archie. But since you have chosen to be so stubborn, I have no choice.’ He turned to von Herring. ‘Feed them to
The Book of Souls

Archie saw the frightened look on Bramble’s face as von Herring pushed her roughly towards the open book. As he did,
The Book of Souls
grew until it was several times its original size. Its surface shimmered like a pool of dark water. Bramble tried to struggle, but von Herring was too strong.

‘Wait,’ cried Archie. ‘Don’t hurt her. Tell me what I have to do …’

Von Herring did not answer. His eyes were fixed on the pendant around Archie’s neck. ‘That pendant,’ he said. ‘It is John Dee’s scrying crystal. I recognise it from the portraits. Where did you get it? Give it to me.’

He snatched the pendant from around Archie’s neck, breaking the silver chain. The green crystal pulsed once and Archie felt a sudden foreboding.

The Book of Souls
was glowing with a strange blue light. The open pages rippled like the surface of a black lake. ‘Get back,’ he cried to his cousins. ‘Stand away from the book.’

Bramble and Thistle pulled back, but von Herring was rooted to the spot, staring into the crystal. His eyes were wide. His face suddenly
changed. Confusion replaced delight. ‘But what is this? What is happening? No, not me. Take the girl,’ he screamed. The pendant fell from his hand, clattering onto the flagstone floor and Archie picked it up.

The surface of the book began to churn. Two claw-like hands reached out and seized von Herring. He didn’t even have time to scream before he disappeared beneath the surface of the pages.

Arthur Ripley shook his head. ‘He was a fool,’ he sneered. ‘He should have known that
The Book of Souls
would require something in exchange for releasing its secret. And now it has his soul. And if you refuse to co-operate then your cousins are next!’

Ripley pushed Thistle forward. ‘So what do you say now, Archie Greene? Are you ready to do as you are told?’

Archie had no choice if he was to save his cousin.

‘Whatever secret you still contain, I command you to reveal it.’

There was a hissing sound and black letters began to appear above
The Book of Souls
. The letters twisted into words.

Archie knew that it was dark magic but he was unable to stop himself uttering the words.

‘Let darkness fall

Let darkness reign

The power that was

Shall rise again.’

The Book of Souls
began to shake violently. Its cover, which was stretched tight, started to ripple and bulge as if something were trapped inside. Shapes appeared in its surface. Suddenly, a dark inky liquid erupted from the book like a volcano.

At first it oozed like molten black clay, but gradually it began to take the form of a tall and very angular man in a long purple robe. Around his neck he wore a ruby gemstone on a silver chain. His face was deeply lined and he had hollow cheeks and a long hooked nose. His white skin was the gnarled texture of the book’s cover. Long black hair threaded with silver framed his gaunt face and his staring black eyes seethed with malice.

Archie had seen that face before.

‘It can’t be!’ he exclaimed in horror.

‘Oh yes it can,’ Ripley cried, his voice exultant. ‘The book’s last secret is the soul of Barzak himself!’

BOOK: Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret
6.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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