The Dark Archive Page 1


My dear Irene,

What on earth is going on? You’ve reported kidnap and even assassination attempts? You’ve done your best to make them sound inconsequential, but having half a dozen werewolves try to snatch you out of your cab is not normal. Nor – whatever your friend the detective says – is an attempt to drug and abduct you over supper. His perspective on the subject is severely biased. I’m sure these things happen to him all the time. And while Prince Kai may also shrug at assassination attempts, his family would take a far more serious view.

Irene, you simply can’t treat these things as normal. I realize the last year or so has been more than a little stressful. However, you’re getting blasé and that’s dangerous. I would suggest you take a vacation – but at the moment you’re very close to being essential, and handling some very important problems on behalf of the Library. (Don’t get smug. Nobody’s totally essential.) If these attacks are due to criminal elements within Vale’s homeworld, then get Vale to sort them out. Or if they’re being organized by someone from outside your posting – by Fae or dragon – then get more information, and fast.

Speaking of very important problems, your request to take on a Fae apprentice has caused some controversy and has led to a great deal of discussion. I know it was to get the Fae to commit fully to our peace treaty, but some Librarians still don’t like it.

It won’t surprise you to know that we have had previous attempts at this. They all failed. We have no record of a Fae ever managing to enter the Library – meaning that no Fae has ever managed to become a Librarian. In addition, we both know that the Fae aren’t interested in the training you’d offer their candidate (researching, filing, subterfuge, theft et cetera). They want one of their kind to have access to the Library. (Despite the peace treaty between them, us and the dragons, everyone’s still looking for advantages.) But equally, a Fae loyal to the Library and indisputably on our side would be an advantage for us.

As Melusine has pointed out repeatedly, as head of internal security, one of our greatest strengths is our privacy. Fae can’t enter the Library at all. Dragons can only enter if brought in by a Librarian. This has helped keep us safe from invasion in the past. If you – somehow – manage to get a Fae in here, you’ll be setting a precedent which will change our security protocols forever. And if Fae can enter the Library, then what about other creatures of chaos? What about Alberich? He was so chaos-contaminated that he might as well have been Fae.

By now you’re wondering what we actually decided about your apprentice. It was nearly sent back to committee for another discussion, with a due date of this time next year. However, I’m glad to say that we do have an answer. Or at least a partial answer.

You may take this response back to the Fae: The elder Librarians have no record of any Fae entering the Library or taking oaths as a Librarian. However, the Librarian Irene can accept a Fae apprentice for a trial period if the apprentice sincerely wishes to become a Librarian. Irene shall then do her best to help this apprentice enter the Library. If this proves impossible after two years, then we will negotiate the situation further. They’ll probably want to push the ‘two years’. You have permission to let yourself be argued up to five years if necessary. Do your best to stick to two, though.

Unfortunately, we’ll be thoroughly bound by this agreement, without wiggle room. We’re going to have to get a Fae into the Library (posing a security risk to us), or provide unarguable reasons why we can’t. And if we don’t succeed, the Fae will believe we won’t do it, rather than can’t do it. It’s what you call a lose–lose situation. I’m not saying this is treaty-breaking stuff, but it will tarnish their opinion of us and make negotiating future concessions that much more difficult. Blame yourself, Irene: you’ve acquired a reputation as the Librarian who can do anything!

I’ll have someone bring you our research on the subject of Fae, Entering Library, Failure to. It may give you some ideas of where to start, or at least what not to repeat. (Don’t try to channel lightning from a thunderstorm. That always goes wrong. Yes, personal experience.)

As when you took Kai as our first dragon apprentice, I need to warn you: absolutely no harm must come to our up-and-coming Fae apprentice. (Do give my regards to Kai, by the way. How’s he doing?) If she gets damaged in any way, you’ll have to answer for it. Keep us informed, especially if problems arise.

Looking back at this letter, I may seem overly negative. What you’re about to try may be a great step forward, and I appreciate that. But progress can lead to danger too. Please be careful. I do worry about you, you know. (And do something about those kidnappings!)

With affection and concern,


Senior Librarian

PS – Yes, the cough is getting better. Stop asking about it.





The ether-lamps illuminated the wide tunnel with harsh brightness. Irene estimated that they were about two hundred and fifty feet beneath the English Channel at this point, close to the coast of Guernsey. Fans set at regular intervals in the walls churned the stale air with their burnished brass blades, providing a soft background purr of sound. This was comforting in the otherwise eerie silence. Irene Winters, Librarian and spy, found herself perversely wondering who kept this tunnel dusted. And who polished the brass? But letting herself be distracted was, she recognized, an indication of how nervous she was at being here. She was capable of many things, but she couldn’t hold back the sea or save them from an earthquake.

There was a heavy brass airlock at the end of the passage, with overlapping petals of iron and glass set into its roughly circular frame. A control pad with a recessed wheel and two huge levers were embedded in the wall by its side. This Victorian technology was perfectly appropriate, though, given that Irene was on assignment in a Victorian-era world. Her companion, Vale – private detective and the person who’d requested her help down here – was a native inhabitant. But their dapper clothing had been designed for London society, rather than tunnels under the sea. Irene eyed Vale’s top hat and suit wryly as she considered her own incongruous hat and veil.

‘Is there some reason why this document’s been sent through private diplomatic channels, rather than just in the mail? Why did we have to come here to collect it?’ she asked, feeling suddenly claustrophobic. Vale had been silent for most of their walk down the tunnel – a brooding, thoughtful silence which didn’t welcome conversation. But the time had come for more information. After all, she thought with some irritation, she was doing him a favour by accompanying him. The four of them – her, the dragon prince Kai, her new apprentice Catherine and Vale – had come here to Guernsey so that Irene could collect a very specific book for the Library. She’d also wanted to get them away from the recent rash of attacks targeting not only her, but her companions. After they’d arrived, Vale had asked Irene to come on this little subterranean excursion with him. She’d agreed, on condition that they’d get back in time for the book handover. She’d left Kai and Catherine together for some tea, cake and quality conversation. ‘I didn’t ask earlier in case anyone was listening, but surely down here . . .’

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