Date Published: April 3, 2018
Imprisoned on a distant realm—her love life in a shambles—18-year-old Johanna Charette wonders how to extract herself from her enemy's grasp. He's a fool who wants to control all the knowledge in the universe by destroying every book in every Library of Illumination except his own. He’s already demonstrated he’s willing to kill to do it. Johanna needs to resolve the threats against the Libraries of Illumination and protect the people she holds dear. But how?
She has changed—ever since engaging with a secret society of sorcerers—and she believes magic is growing inside her. Meanwhile, her feelings about ex-boyfriend, Jackson Roth, remain unresolved, especially after learning why he broke up with her.
Unfortunately, the battle to control all the Libraries of Illumination is about to explode. Their lives are in peril. And the source of every bit of information everyone on every realm once trusted, could be stripped away, plunging future generations into stone-age ignorance.
Cameron Thorne, the dean of English at Cranford University, grimaced and twisted his face to one side with his eyes tightly closed. “What is that smell?”
He squinted just enough to see Johanna Charette, curator of the Fantasian Library of Illumination. “Am I dreaming?” he asked. “I just had one hell of a nightmare.”
“It’s a nightmare all right, but it’s very, very real.”
“How can this be real?” He struggled up to his feet to try to put some distance between himself and the Terrorian vapor that swirled across the floor. “Wait. Don’t tell me. We’re inside one of your books. It’s the Library of Illumination, right? Books come to life here.”
“I wish it were that simple.” She sighed. “We’re on Terroria, a dark, toxic world filled with oversized beings with multiple tentacles for arms. Nero 51, the Terrorian who brought us here, is the curator of their library. He wants to take over the entire Illumini System, a constellation of thirteen worlds, by destroying all the Libraries of Illumination, so his library alone holds all knowledge. And as Francis Bacon said, ‘Knowledge is power.’
“Anyway,” she summarized, “we’re a long way from Fantasia.”
“That’s what the College of Overseers, who are in charge of all the libraries, call Earth. ‘Fantasia.’”
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, but I can say for certain, it’s not because I doubt you. Should I be scared?”
“You’ve got nothing to fear from me. But I can’t say as much for our tentacled abductors. They absolutely hate me and would love to see me die a slow, painful death.”
“That doesn’t sound promising.”
“I hope Jackson managed to secure the library after we were taken.”
“Is that difficult to do?”
“It is with the Terrorians. They have our time machine, but I thought they were stuck between the layers of time and space. I guess they figured out how to break free.”
“Did you just say time machine?”
“It’s a long story.”
“No!” Johanna swatted away the vapor in the area of the mewling. “I don’t believe it.” She lifted a bundle of fur and hugged it to her chest. Ophelia purred at her. “Now, I have to worry about you too?” she said as she bent to kiss the small, white kitten. She pulled away sharply. “You smell like Terrorian poop.”
Cameron scratched the top of Ophelia’s head. “You know,” he said to Johanna, “everything you’ve told me so far sounds totally off the wall—like you’re just grabbing bits and pieces of your favorite sci-fi stories and mashing them together. Yet, my insides are tied up in knots, because I believe every word of it.”
Johanna managed a small smile. “I’m sorry I got you mixed up in this. It really was just supposed to be a pleasant lunch and a library tour for my future college professor—just a way for you to see one of our enchanted books spring to life.”
“What do you think our chances are of getting out of here?” Cameron walked around the enclosed space that imprisoned them, looking for a way out.
“Normally, I’d say slim to none. But I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, thanks to the Eahta Frean fram Drycræft.”
“Yes. It’s a secret society formed to protect the works of Myrddin Emrys, who is more popularly known as Merlin the Magician.”
“Merlin the Magician is fictional.”
“Nope. He’s as real as you and I.”
“I’m the dean of the English Department. I did my doctoral dissertation on medieval Arthurian literature. Myrddin Emrys may have been real, but Merlin is a complete fabrication.”
“When we get back to the library, I’ll prove it to you.”
“Well, at least you’re optimistic about us getting back to the library.”
Johanna sighed. “I’m so sorry, Cameron. I really wish the Terrorians would have left you and Ophelia behind.”
“But then you’d be all alone. At least you have me to protect you and your furry little friend.”
His comment took her breath away, if only for a moment. “Thank you,” she whispered.
Furst used his diary to contact overseer Pru Tellerence. He wanted to tell her about the Terrorians’ sneak attack and how the invaders captured his kinsmen outside the Dramatican library. He walked back to the window on the halo level and looked out onto the field behind the library. The inhabitants of Dramatica, a normally peaceful realm where people lived simple lives, had risen up to fight the Terrorians and were now being taken prisoner.
Furst could see a half-dozen soldiers and a dozen immobilized Dramaticans. At least, the fighting had stopped, although four troopers faced out from the field with their decimators ready.
Pick them off, I could, Furst thought. But the sealed library window would pose a problem. The cupola? The curator looked at the railings above him before staring at the base of the cupola staircase below. Too much time, that would take. He slid the decimator behind his back and flexed his knees before jumping from the halo level to the cupola.
Furst took a deep breath after his feet connected with the floor. Dramaticans were known for their jumping abilities, but he took a leap that would be considered well beyond normal. He rushed into one of the alcoves and found an octagonal window that opened for roof maintenance. He opened his diary to ask Pru Tellerence if the window was sealed. He did not expect to see the words, Furst, we are under attack, as her reply.
The Terrorians who invaded the predominantly female realm, Romantica, were so intent on removing the arrows that had pierced their tentacles, they didn’t notice Milencia Jolen’s late arrival on the field.
She fell to the ground after crashing into Natalia Dalura and found herself staring into the curator’s eyes. “Are you all right?” Milencia whispered.
“I can’t move,” Natalia answered, keeping her voice low. “Apparently, we’ve all been incarcerated in our own personal force fields.”
“But you can speak.”
“Yes. But I can’t turn my head or use my limbs.”
Milencia tried to touch Natalia, but the force field repelled her hand. “Did I hurt you when I crashed into you?”
“No. I think it is also protecting me.”
“What do you think I should do?”
“Unless you believe you can overtake six large invaders with eight stretchy tentacles each before they see you, I’d say not much. At least, not here. It would be better for you to sneak away and warn everyone to lock themselves inside their homes.”
Milencia peeked beyond Natalia’s inert body. She stiffened. “Dame Erato doesn’t look good. Is she dead?”
Natalia might not have been able to move, but that didn’t stop a tear from pooling on the bridge of her nose. “I don’t know. It wasn’t supposed to happen. One of the militairres shot an arrow at the Terrorians, but the arrow went wild. If Dame Erato dies, it’s our fault.”
“U zego a inca-gi.”
Milencia froze when she heard the Terrorians speak. She looked around for a means of escape. A massive willow tree was just a few arm-lengths away. She turned her head and watched the Terrorians cluster together to discuss something. Milencia crawled behind the tree and held her breath. Even though she didn’t exert a lot of energy, her heart thumped heavily, and she tried as hard as she could to quiet her heartbeat and control her breathing. What felt like several minutes passed without incident. Milencia slowly crept around the trunk of the tree to see what the Terrorians were doing. Her jaw dropped when a large glass bubble appeared and two militairres were loaded inside. She gasped, ducking back behind the tree when they disappeared.
The invaders lined up the other frozen militairres two-by-two. At this rate, it could be hours before the Terrorians completed their task and departed. Or maybe not. The bubble suddenly reappeared, empty, and two more militairres were carried onboard.
A melancholy spirit pervaded the overseers’ meeting room in the Library of Origination on the prime realm. The outward appearance of calm and perfection in the capital city of Lumi belied the internal turmoil created by the Terrorian betrayal. The overseers had their work cut out for them.
The Terrorians have invaded Romantica and managed to capture overseers Pru Tellerence and Horatio Blastoe, as well as the militairres. Fortunately, they ensnared their captives in force fields rather than killing them.
We must go free our brethren.
We do not need to free them. The deans are still wearing their miters and can remove themselves at will. Right now, they are acting as our eyes and ears.
How interesting. They say the prisoners are apparently being removed in the stolen time machine.
This calls for an entrapment snare.
Pru Tellerence and Horatio Blastoe do not have that capability. Only you, Galio Abbingdon, and I, can engage an entrapment snare.
Will you be traveling there, then?
It is wiser to allow them to be taken to Terroria. They can give us information on what is transpiring on that realm.
If I’m not mistaken, although I have no memory of the actual event, I did not fare well on Terroria, even though I’m an overseer.
Ah, Plato Indelicat, that is only because you became separated from your miter. Pru Tellerence and Horatio Blastoe will transport themselves away if they fear that is about to happen to them. You have provided them with that important lesson.
Can we also discuss Adventura, which is under attack by its sun?
By all means.
The power grids have failed across the entire realm. Previously, only their tissue-cloning operation appeared threatened. Now, their very existence is at risk. They have no way to refrigerate the plasma they use to keep their brains and hearts functioning, nor any way to recharge their non-organic sensors. In less than six weeks, their civilization will cease to function if a solution is not found.
Scorching winds blew debris across the deserted landscape of Adventura’s main cities. The massive explosions caused by their raging sun had destroyed the realm’s interconnected power systems, plunging everything into darkness.
In the capital city of Venit, gold-armed hu*bots gathered in cohorts to discuss strategies that might sustain the majority of their citizens in stasis. Physicians discussed ways to maintain heart and brain health. Scientists studied the phenomena that caused the massive blackout. Mathematicians calculated how long the solar storm would last and how much further damage it might do. Engineers concerned themselves with developing new mechanisms for generating power. And, violet-eyed gold arms—the most elite echelon of all—weighed the various approaches and considered how they might mesh together.
Few would admit it, but never had the Adventurans felt so helpless, at least, not since the nuclear aftermath of the Two Millennia War nearly annihilated their civilization. Each of them still carried the cloned remnants of those same ancestors, and their forbears’ ancient emotions stirred back to life.
The young people on Juvenilia were amazed to see an overseer. Juveniles didn’t survive past the age of fifteen, so most of them had never seen anyone old. They circled around Zenith Fullova, touching his robe and marveling over his beard and hat. The overseer had visited Juvenilia regularly but mostly confined his stays inside the Library of Illumination. He was as concerned as the children over the disappearance of their curator.
When was the last time you saw Peer Meap?
One of the younger boys stared at the overseer, his eyes wide. “Did you see that?” he asked, without taking his eyes off Zenith Fullova. “His lips don’t move. He can talk with his mouth closed.”
All the Juveniles took a step closer to Zenith Fullova, hemming him in. “Say something,” one of them called out.
Allow me to restate the question. When was the last time any one of you saw your curator?
“Wow. Could you teach us how to do that?”
Zenith Fullova smiled. §First, you must tell me about Peer Meap.
“He’s been gone an awful long time,” Duddu answered. “I haven’t seen him since before the monsters came.”
Are there monsters here, now?
“They’re mostly dead. One drowned in the pond. We fried one in the storm drain. The others are making a big stink in the library. We don’t want them here.”
They don’t belong here. It is the reason why we sealed the libraries. However, Zenith Fullova looked at Duddu and Marbol, §you boys still managed to get inside.
Marbol held up his homemade weapon. “I used my sonic scrambler. The first time, it broke the glass in the window and the monsters escaped. But then, something happened, and we couldn’t get inside, even though there was no glass left. I modified my scrambler and tried it again on a different window. It doesn’t look like I broke the glass, but now we can get inside like there’s nothing there.”
Zenith Fullova carefully studied the device. §May I borrow it?
Marbol hunched his shoulders and hugged the scrambler against his chest. “It’s the only one I have.”
I can get it back to you, unchanged, within moments.
Marbol repeatedly sucked in air and rapidly blew it out through pursed lips, making them quiver.
Duddu placed a hand on Marbol’s shoulder. “It’ll be okay. He’s Peer Meap’s friend. He’ll give it back to you.” But Marbol continued to clutch the sonic scrambler to his chest, breathing heavily.
I have an idea. Let’s take a trip.
“All of us?” someone asked.
No. Zenith Fullova put his hands on Marbol’s and Duddu’s shoulders. §Just these two lads and I. In the blink of an eye, they disappeared.
Malcolm Trees, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, hid on the floor behind a stone bench at the far end of a Mysterian discussion circle. He and curator, Hue the Elder, hoped the bench would shield them from invading Terrorians. Mal’s biggest concern was his inability to commune with the overseers. He had left his robe and chaperon—a special hat designed by the overseers—at Hue the Elder’s home after lunch. Without the special properties built into the chaperon, he could not inform anyone of the attack upon the priests and priestesses of Mysteriose, a realm where half the inhabitants dabbled in witchcraft and sorcery.
“This is quite undignified,” Hue whispered, “and uncomfortable. But we must remain here until we can get away to the caves without being detected.”
Mal nodded but doubted the curator could see his sign of agreement. He wriggled his way to the edge of the bench to try to peek around it. He caught a glimpse of a Terrorian trooper walking out of the building with each of his tentacles wrapped around an immobilized Mysterian.
Jackson Roth frantically searched the Library of Illumination’s circulation desk for Johanna’s diary. “She used to keep it in here. I’m sure of it.”
Emily Brent, his prom date, wrapped her arms around her body. “I don’t want to stay here. This place gives me the creeps. Those ugly beasts tried to kill me!”
Jackson stared at her. “They’re called Terrorians. You’re okay now, which is more than I can say for Johanna.”
“They dangled me from five stories up. I could have been killed.”
“You weren’t,” Jackson answered as he continued to search.
Emily glared at her best friend, Cassie Turner, who in turn nudged Jackson’s best friend, Logan Elliott.
“Are you calling the cops?” Logan asked.
“No. I need to get in touch with the overseers.”
“If you’re not calling the cops, I’m not hanging around here for a repeat performance.” Emily turned to Cassie. “Do I look okay? Have I been slimed?”
“No,” Cassie answered. “You look beautiful.”
“Can we get out of here? I want to go to the prom.”
“The prom?” Jackson couldn’t believe his ears. “I can’t go to the prom. I’m the co-curator here. I have to save Johanna.”
“I’ll probably be voted prom queen. You have to escort me.” Emily stamped her foot. “You’re supposed to be my king.”
Jackson looked at Logan. “Can you help me out here?”
Logan shook his head. “Leave it to this place to turn prom night into a weirdo missing persons case.”
Cassie gripped Logan’s arm like she’d never let go. “What about that other guy?”
That got Emily’s attention. “The cute college guy?”
Jackson sighed. “Who did she say he was?”
“The dean of English at Cranford University,” Logan answered.
“I’ve got to get them back.” Jackson continued to root around the desk.
Cassie tugged on Logan’s arm. “Do something,” she said between clenched teeth.
Logan kissed the side of her head before saying to Jackson, “Dude. How about I take the girls to the prom, while you take care of business here? There’s not much reason for us to hang around. You know where to find us when you’re done.”
“Yeah. Sure. You go ahead,” Jackson said, without stopping his hunting expedition.
Logan placed his free hand on Emily’s back and led her and Cassie out the door.
“Wait,” Jackson called out. He grabbed the corsage he had purchased for Emily and ran over to her. “This is for you.”
She took the corsage without looking at him. “Thanks.”
Once they were outside, Emily leaned toward Logan. “What was that all about? What is this place?”
“It’s the Library of Illumination, and if you don’t want to be considered an airhead, don’t repeat anything that happened tonight to anyone. Jackson didn’t want us coming here to begin with, and now I can see why.”
Cassie pulled away from him. “Somebody needs to know what happened here. It’s… unnatural.”
Logan helped the girls slide into the back of the limousine they had hired to take them to the senior prom. “You’re right. But if you say something without any proof to back it up, no one is going to believe you. And they’ll start calling you a whack job. Just leave it to me. This gives me an idea about how to put my summer internship to good use.”
“Where are you interning?” Emily asked.
“Graydon Ransom University News Tonight. I’m going to be one of their new reporters. And, boy, do I have a story for them. I think tonight just turned into my springboard to stardom.”
Expected publication: April 3rd 2018 by C. A. Pack
About the Author
C. A. Pack is an award-winning former journalist, who gave up fact for fiction. She was inspired to write her Library of Illumination series after discussing her views on what the perfect library would be like. Chronicles: The Library of Illumination, which contains the first five adventures in the series, was named one of the “Best Indie Books of 2014” by Kirkus Reviews.
C. A. is also the author of the Evangeline’s Ghost series and Code Name: Evangeline. She lives on Long Island with her husband, and a picky little parrot who loves to play peek-a-boo.