Sorcery of Thorns
Check out our episode here! Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Death rode to the Great Library of Summershall as night fell. The insignia of the Collegium, a crossed quail and key, shines on the side of the carriage being pulled by wild-eyed horses. Waiting to receive it is the Director, whose sword, Demonslayer, is belted at her hip. Next to her is apprentice Elisabeth Scrivener, armed with salt. The Director and Elisabeth take a coffer carefully from the carriage and deep into the vault, wary of the contents as it tries to break free.
Inside is a book, a grimoire, created centuries ago that has driven dozens of people mad. At first glance, it looks like it is covered in greasy black leather with bulbous protrusions, but then these lumps split open to reveal bloodstained eyeballs that twitch and roll. This is the Book of Eyes, created by sorcerers to reach into the mind of others. The general belief is that sorcery is evil and it was only the Reforms that stopped sorcerers from continuing to bind books with human parts, making grimoires such as the Book of Eyes exceptionally rare. These high-class grimoires are dangerous. If damaged, they can transform into a Malefict. Battling one resulted in the scar the Director has down her face, and it was with Demonslayer she defeated it. With great care, Elisabeth and The Director inter the Book of Eyes in the vault, but all the while, Elisabeth hears it whisper “Apprentice, I see you… Look at me… look....”
The Great Library of Summershall is one of Austermeer’s six Great Libraries. Five of these great buildings are evenly spaced in a giant circle, with the sixth, in the capital city of Brassbridge, at its center. Elisabeth has spent her entire life being raised among the books and grimoires of the Great Library of Summershall having been abandoned there as a baby. Now, at sixteen, Elisabeth is an apprentice trusted to deal with the transfer of Class One through Three grimoires; the Book of Eyes was Class Eight on the ten-point risk scale. She is working on these when heated voices catch her attention. The director and her former tutor, Master Hargrove, are discussing her. Master Hargove questions Elisabeth's suitability, advocating for her being sent to an orphanage while the Director is in favor of Elisabeth staying, citing her special connection to the books in the Great Library. This strengthens Elisabeth’s resolve to prove herself. Contrary to their belief, Elisabeth has a friend other than the books, Katrien Quillworthy, who she met when they began their apprenticeship, and she has news! A Magister has arrived for a trip into the vault and, while the wardens are tense, Katrien persuades Elisabeth to go take a look.
Elisabeth and Katrien sneak into the reading room and while Katrien rifles through drawers for science, Elisabeth smells a caustic, unnatural odor, how she would imagine burnt metal would smell. Quickly hiding when they hear someone coming, they spy Magister Thorn being led into the room. Elisabeth judged he wasn’t much older then her sixteen years, though he has a vivid streak of silver through his black hair and cruel grey eyes that looked straight at their hiding place. As the magister draws near, one of the grimoires grabs at Elisabeth’s robes, and as she yanks at it, she takes the bookcase with her in the fall.
Frozen in fear on the floor, Elisabeth is convinced Magister Thorn is going to hurt her. She’s heard the tales of sorcerers sacrificing innocents. Instead, Thorn finds it amusing, he expected strange things but not feral librarians roaming the stacks. Though Elisabeth is scared of magic, she finds it beautiful when Thorn uses it to tidy up the fallen case. Elisabeth asks Thorn about the unnatural smell, which Thorn explains is the reaction when the demon realm comes into contact with their own, it’s known as aetherial combustion, but how did she know? Before he can get an answer, the Director announces she is ready to take him down into the vault.
Months later, Elisabeth is woken in the middle of the night and goes to investigate the sound that woke her. Images flash in her mind of claw marks on a table in a vault, but that can’t be right, and there's an unmistakable smell that strikes her: aetherial combustion. Elisabeth searches in the dark, questioning where the wardens are, when she kicks something on the floor… Demonslayer. Slumped dead beside the sword is the Director. Stumbling away, Elisabeth finds her hands covered not in blood but in ink...
Taking up Demonslayer, Elisabeth goes in search of the Malefict, a monster that was once a book of ink and leather that has drawn upon the magic within its pages. Elisabeth finds the Malefict in the orchard, it is the Book of Eyes, and raises Demonslayer as she charges in, drawing its attention. Amongst the trees, Elisabeth is able to lie in wait, listening to the book whispering in her mind. Taking the Malefict by surprise, Elisabeth is able to thrust Demonslayer into the monster, ink pouring from its wound, its bellow waking the town of Summershall. Elisabeth flees, but the monster soon catches her at a warden supply cache. Struggling against it, she throws a pouch of salt and, as it screams, she drives Demonslayer through a bright blue eye. Ink bubbles, the many eyes twitch, and the leather skin cracks and peels before the Malefict disintegrates as the Great Library’s bell starts to ring.
Master Hargrove and Warden Finch argue over Elisabeth’s culpability. Surprisingly, Master Hargrove is defending Elisabeth against Warden Finch’s accusations that, of the two people who handled the Book of Eyes, one is dead and the other isn’t. Shocking Elisabeth, Master Hargrove tells Warden Finch that the Director left Demonslayer to Elisabeth in her will and that logic must be employed. Too late! Warden Finch, who has begun calling himself Director, has already contacted the Magisterium and refuses to listen to Elisabeth’s “lies,” sending her to the dungeon until the sorcerers come to collect her.
For over a week Elisabeth waits in darkness ((nakedly having a dance party?)) until the day comes when Finch throws her out into the courtyard where a carriage with intricate thorn detailing is waiting for her. A hooded figure emerges from the shadowy carriage and introduces himself as Nathaniel Thorn, the magister she met months before, and advises she shouldn’t run because it will only make her look guilty to the Chancellor. Who is the Chancellor? Surprised by her ignorance, Thorn explains that Chancellor Ashcroft is the second most powerful person in the kingdom and the head of the Magisterium. Thorn’s demonic servant, Silas, carries Elisabeth’s small trunk to the waiting coach. Elisabeth isn’t afraid of Silas, she inexplicably trusts him; however, Thorn she does not. It is a three day ride to Brassbridge and Elisabeth is convinced the whole time that Thorn will kill her on the way.
The journey is uneventful though. Katrien was able to smuggle a Lexicon of Sorcerous Arts in Elisabeth’s belongings for her to use to gain knowledge, or hit someone over the head. Silas always seemed to be in the way of her escape plans and Thorn showed no signs of trying to murder her. An attack comes when they reach Brassbridge and are entering the lodge. A hooded figure grabs Elisabeth and holds a knife to her throat!
Nathaniel is laid back by the whole assault and attempted abduction of his charge. Together with Silas, they dispatch the man before fiends, lesser demons who are illegal to summon, come after Elisabeth. Nathaniel creates a magical whip, cracking it into the nearby building and bringing it down on the fiends. From the rubble, Elisabeth grabs a metal bar as a weapon, and together they head back to the carriage where they are chased by the demonic beasts. They make a stand in a busy square surrounded by vendors and other carriages, Elisabeth wielding the metal bar, Nathaniel summoning magic and Silas with his claws. The end of the fight is hazy, and Elisabeth wakes in bed with the sun in her eyes and Silas making her tea. Nathaniel and Silas have brought her to the Thorn estate. The fight the previous day has made the morning papers and the headline reads SUSPECT… OR HERO? Details of attacks and sabotage in libraries other than the one Elisabeth came from are given and there's also mention of the fiend attack in Brassbridge. In light of the public outcry in her defense and the other library reports, Elisabeth’s hearing has been called off. Now, she is to speak to the Chancellor directly.
Elisabeth is all dressed up with only Hemlock Park to go to, and there are sorcerers everywhere, any one of whom could be the library saboteur, which is a chilling thought. Eventually the carriage takes them to the Chancellor’s residence, Ashcroft Manor, and it’s the size of a palace with a gauntlet of journalists waiting for them. Once inside, with grand flair and the smell of aetherial combustion in the air, Chancellor Ashcroft makes his entrance. With simpering aplomb, the Chancellor declares to the congregated press that Elisabeth is cleared of all charges and he shall send a personal recommendation that she be considered for warden training. Unbeknownst to Elisabeth, she is also to move into the Ashcroft Manor. Right now because there goes her trunk. Elisabeth is also expected to attend Ashcroft’s gathering that evening, which went exactly how most gatherings of self-important rich people with more power than sense goes. After dinner though, Elisabeth finally meets Ashcroft’s demon retainer, Lorelei, who is entertaining the gathering with her singing but who only has eyes for Elisabeth.
A woozy sensation passes over Elisabeth when Lorelei approaches her and she falls into the demon's arms. Demons typically have the ability to manipulate the minds of humans, but Elisabeth didn't feel the desire to give in to Lorelei and so she wasn't overpowered by her, but the demon didn’t seem to notice Elisabeth resisting her, so she played along. Lorelei guides a "mindless" Elisabeth through the Manor and into a drawing room where Ashcroft waits. Setting her bonelessly onto a divan, Lorelei and Ashcroft discuss their plans, the attacks and the Director's death. The sabotage was all them! And they don’t realize she can hear them! Staging Elisabeth’s body as if she has had a fall, Ashcroft calls for a physician who blames her fall on “An excess of novel reading, combined with the excitement of the past few days.” Clearly, this physician is a quack but Elisabeth feels that he is the only person she can trust with the information she has gained and tells him everything. The doctor then diagnoses her with hysteria, which is common amongst women who read novels, and prescribes bedrest, though a stay in Leadgate Hospital would be his recommendation.
For days, Elisabeth is confined to her room. She sees lesser-demons everywhere, including the butler Mr. Hob. How is Ashcroft controlling them? One day, Elisabeth hears girls at the fountain near her room talking about her. The rumor is that she is deranged and she assaulted the physician, but isn’t Ashcroft kind for taking her in? Thankfully the physician didn’t detail her ramblings in his notes, otherwise Ashcroft would know that he and Lorelei have no effect on her. Lorelei can sense something is off and suggests Ashcroft enter her mind, but he doesn't. Elisabeth notes that Ashcroft has a Class Five grimoire on his desk, which is illegal to own privately. Elisabeth fakes a fainting spell and waits for Lorelei to leave before asserting her will over the grimoire, The Codex Daemonicus. She saw this in Thorn’s carriage on the way to Brassbridge. Before she can investigate further Lorelei returns with Ashcroft, who, clearly done with the situation, burrows into her mind to try to find out what she knows about him. Elisabeth focuses hard and only offers up the memory of the Director telling her that she belonged in the library. Dissatisfied, Ashcroft tells the lesser-demon butler, Mr. Hob, to make arrangements to have her moved to Leadgate hospital.
Leadgate Hospital is a place of suffering, not healing, where people are sent to disappear, but Elisabeth isn't going to let that happen to her so, after a quick knee to the groin of the guard, she’s off. As she hides, Mr. Hob, in his true goblin form, comes hunting her. A girl from the hospital, Mercy, has also found Elisabeth and she tries to help her but Mr. Hob chases them until they escape through an iron gate and part ways.
Elisabeth tries to contact Master Hargrove at Summershall and spends the days waiting for his response sleeping in the streets where she gets sick. As she wanders the streets, she finds out about another attack, this time by a Class Nine Malefict. She’s running out of time and counting on Master Hargrove to respond to her letter explaining what happened to her with the Chancellor but the reply she gets isn't what she hoped for. Suddenly Elisabeth spots a young boy and is convinced he is actually Nicholas's demon Silas in disguise. She hastens after him down an alleyway where she is promptly threatened by ruffians, but Silas rescues her. Gathering her up, Silas takes her to Thorn Manor. Silas explains to Nathaniel how he found Elisabeth, that he senses something is not right between the worlds, and only Elisabeth stands in the way of the disruption.
Elisabeth wakes in bed, tea services and breakfast laid out beside her. She remembers Silas’s kind and gentle treatment and then realizes, other than the letter from Summershall, she has nothing. How is she going to fight the Chancellor? Suddenly, there is a knock on the door and Nathaniel comes in. Elisabeth shows Nathaniel the letter, which confuses him before she explains the truth about the Chancellor. As she explains, emerald sparks flicker from Nathaniel’s hand and the room falls into darkness. Nathaniel is astounded that Elisabeth was able to resist the Chancellor’s spells. Elisabeth implores Nathaniel to help her make the Collegium believe her. She says the Great Library at Harrows is one of the Chancellor’s targets and its vault holds two of the three remaining Class Ten grimoires. Nathaniel believes Elisabeth, but unfortunately he points out that since the Chancellor had her declared insane, her word will mean very little to anyone of consequence. He tries to get her to leave it alone now she is safe, but Elisabeth has set her course.
Later, Elisabeth is exploring Thorn Manor. The residence seems empty until she finds one door with green light seeping out. Nathaniel is working on an illusion for the Royal Ball of a magnificent fairy tale forest. When the illusion pops, Elisabeth finds she is standing in Nathaniel’s study and it is filled floor to ceiling with books! With Nathaniel’s permission, Elisabeth goes full Belle and finds her own Lexicon on a shelf. With access to books, Elisabeth begins to read and make a plan, however the grimoires yield a disappointingly small amount of information.
Some time later, when Elisabeth breaks up a fight between two books, she finds a mirror hidden behind a bookcase. This is no ordinary mirror though, it’s a scrying mirror. Asking to see someone she knows, the mirror shows her Katrien in the room they shared, surrounded by piles of paper. Clearly she is up to something. Surprisingly, the scrying mirror is two way! Quickly, Elisabeth asks Katrien to locate a copy of the Codex Daemonicus, the same book Ashcroft had, before the image disappears. The magic seemingly gone for now, Elisabeth doesn’t let the mirror go and luckily, the next morning, the magic is back. Katrien tells Elisabeth that there are only two copies of the Codex Daemonicus. One went missing centuries ago and the other is in the Royal Library. She suggests Elisabeth get a job at the library to access it.
Finding a library job was a lot easier than Elisabeth expected. She gave a fake last name and was hired as a maidservant pretty much on the spot when she showed no fear of the giant booklice. It isn’t as easy to find the Codex Daemonicus though as Elisabeth is micro-managed by an old servant named Gertrude. Fortunately a disturbed nest of booklice distracts Gertrude enough for Elisabeth to slip away to the card catalog where she finds the shelf location of the Codex. Thankfully Silas, in the form of a white cat which Elisabeth named Sir Fluffington, followed her to the library and is able to offer her assistance in retrieving the location of the Codex by causing a whirlwind of chaos with a grimoire. Elisabeth uses this distraction to steal the Codex Daemonicus’ index card. But how is she going to access the restricted archives of the Northwest wing?
That night, screams wake Elisabeth. Grabbing salt rounds and a fire poker she investigates, smelling aetherial combustion in the air. The screams are coming from Nathaniel’s rooms where the walls are weeping blood; however, it is just an illusion. Nathaniel was having a nightmare, but now Silas is at his bedside, calming him down. After Silas tends to his master, he takes Elisabeth to a drawing room. There he gives her something sent to the manor by Master Hargrove: Demonslayer. Silas also explains Nathaniel’s nightmare. His mother Charlotte and little brother Maximilian died in an accident, and afterward, Nathaniel’s father, Alister, was lost to grief. Two months after Charlotte and Maximilian’s deaths, Alister exhumed their bodies and attempted to resurrect them through necromancy. Nathaniel had hidden himself in the ritual room. They knew the spell would have taken Alister’s life, and upon seeing Nathaniel, Silas knew it would take him, too, so he ended it, killing Alister. Nathaniel saw everything. Nathaniel bargained for Silas to return while his father’s body was still warm, sacrificing twenty years of his life to the demon for payment at age twelve. Silas asks Elisabeth to end him then and there, but she refuses instead she demands he help save lives.
At the Royal Library, Elisabeth and Silas, in his cat form, creep along the halls as the grimoires snore, whisper and laugh and wardens patrol until they reach the Northwest Wing. Sneaking into the archive, they encounter a waxen, expressionless Ashcroft who seemed to be made of mist. After Elisabeth cuts him through with Demonslayer, more spectral mist-like figures emerge: Warden Finch, Lorelei, Mr. Hob. And the Director. Elisabeth, spotting it for the trap it is, sheathes Demonslayer. The spectral mist figures fade away and the grimoire, The Illusarium, whispers, smart girl… we have room for you, if you ever change your mind as Elisabeth walks away. Eventually she finds the Codex, encircled by chains and it doesn’t stir as it is taken from the shelf. As she hurries to leave, The Illusarium whispers, you are a true child of the library. Before they exit, Silas points to two figures, the library’s Director and Mistress Wick. They are conducting a transfer of a Class Ten grimoire, The Chronicles of the Dead, one of only three remaining, and discussing the saboteur’s pattern and how Harrows is a likely target, the destination of this grimoire, and the location of the other two.
The next day Elisabeth is exhausted. The adventure took all night and she needs to keep up appearances at work. Eventually she is given an extended break for a nap when one of the apprentices, Parsifal, approaches her and asks if she is really Elisabeth Scrivener. Oh no. Parsifal won’t reveal her secret as he is convinced she is on a secret mission for the Collegium, but he does have some information for her: the saboteur struck the Royal Library last night and stole a Class Six grimoire. Phew! That was close.
Once at Thorn Manor that night, Elisabeth finally has time to read the Codex. The words swim and split, and she is only able to garner a small amount of information from the book. Falling asleep with the grimoire in hand, Elisabeth dreams of a man, who looks like a stereotypical grizzled sorcerer, in his workshop. He claims to have been trapped for hundreds of years. After some bickering, Elisabeth finds out he is Aldous Prendergast and he anchored himself to the grimoire to hide from Cornelius Ashcroft, ancestor of Chancellor Ashcroft. Prendergast tells Elisabeth that Ashcroft is trying to finish what Cornelius started but he refuses to help, that she needs to go back. When Elisabeth jumps, she finds the Codex Daemonicus has transformed into a Malefict.
Elisabeth throws salt rounds at the Malefict and it flees, so she grabs Demonslayer from the floor and gives chase. Cornering it in the hall, Nathaniel comes out to find the Malefict growling at Elisabeth. The Malefict isn’t very big and moves on all fours like an angry dog. Nathaniel is not surprised and agrees, with great effort, to revert the Malefict back to a book. Later, Elisabeth brings the scrying mirror to Nathaniel, and he tells her it belonged to his Aunt (she used it to spy on her in-laws!). Together they try to spy on Ashcroft, but when they are prevented by Ashcroft’s magic, they use the mirror to contact Katrien and let her know that Ashcroft hasn’t yet attacked the Great Library of Fairwater. They also try to get Nathaniel into the Codex to see Prendergast, but it doesn’t work. After, Katrien tells Elisabeth she thinks she is more physically resilient to magic than a normal person, after all, she’s survived what would have killed normal people. She’s basically a human booklouse.
Elisabeth continues through the motions at the Royal Library until, as she is cleaning the Deputy Director’s office, she sees they are talking to Ashcroft through a scrying mirror. The Great Library of Fairwater has been sabotaged, leaving four wardens and three civilians dead. Only the Great Library of Harrows has not been targeted. Later, Elisabeth and Nathaniel are talking and decide Prendergast is unreliable as evidence so Elisabeth has the idea that they should confront Ashcroft in public at the Royal Ball. It’s a terrible idea, but it’s the only one they have. What could possibly go wrong?
The Royal Palace feels like a different world. Elisabeth is nervous about their plan to confront Ashcroft, even Demonslayer hidden underneath her dress doesn’t bring her comfort. Guests shoot Elisabeth tight smiles and unsubtly whisper about her; she was, after all, declared insane by the Chancellor. Silas, disguised as a server, keeps one eye on Elisabeth. Eventually Ashcroft makes his way over to Elisabeth and Nathaniel with false platitudes and graciousness about Elisabeth being well again, and a crowd discreetly forms around them. Nathaniel tells Ashcroft, “the criminals on the streets aren’t half as bad as the ones living in mansions.” ((burn!)) Then Elisabeth calls Ashcroft out: she did not recover as she was not ill, but was condemned to Leadgate by an incompetent physician. She says that Leadgate is a prison not a hospital, and that Ashcroft was releasing fiends, and silencing witnesses in the Great Library investigation. Ashcroft scarpers and everyone watches him go, open-mouthed. The Magisterium and Silas follow.
In the hallway, Elisabeth has a panic attack, which is understandable. Then Nathaniel takes her outside to a hidden garden and he talks about his brother, then they share a kiss, but something strikes Elisabeth... he didn’t want to talk about his family before, so why would he do it now? Because Nathaniel has been put under a spell by Ashcroft, who steps out of the shadows. Elisabeth lifts Demonslayer, but then Ashcroft reveals Silas bound by iron chains.
Ashcroft has been using the scrying mirrors against them and knows all their plans and he needs Elisabeth to access Prendergast. Nathaniel challenges Ashcroft to a sorcerer's duel, but unfortunately Elisabeth can’t watch as she has to free Silas and take on Ashcroft’s demon, Lorelei, and the fiends he has called. After a brutal fight, Elisabeth is being held by Lorelei, but Silas manages to slide Demonslayer to her. Elisabeth stomps on the hilt, flipping the sword up and thrusting it into Lorelei, which sends the demon back to the Otherworld. Elisabeth frees Silas just in time for him to dive in front of Nathaniel who is about to be stabbed by Ashcroft, taking the strike instead. Ashcroft is stunned because Silas wasn’t commanded to do that and demons don’t typically sacrifice themselves for their masters. Ashcroft runs off, now magicless because his demon is gone, but Elisabeth doesn’t pursue. Nathaniel has been hurt from the duel.
Nathaniel is in a bad way, and Elisabeth has trouble getting anyone to believe what happened until Ashcroft’s sword is found. Eventually, with help, Elisabeth is able to get Nathaniel back to Thorn Manor which has gone into lockdown because its magical wards sense a Thorn is in dire need. Luckily the wards open for Elisabeth. Inside, physicians tend to Nathaniel and it is a tense time. Elisabeth doesn’t release Demonslayer from her hold and smashes all the mirrors in the manor, just in case. The next day when Nathaniel is declared to be in recovery and is conscious, he kicks out the physicians. He, with Elisabeth’s help, heads to the forbidden room in the manor to summon Silas back.
Nathaniel calls forth Silariathas, Silas’s true demon form, and he is beautiful but frightening, more hungry and less human. He demands thirty years of Nathaniel’s life as payment to reenter his service. Elisabeth argues with Silariathas but he is unmoved and tells them his sacrifice was to gain a greater reward when summoned again. Elisabeth offers 10 years of her life to add to Nathaniel’s offered 20 and relinquishes any control of Silariathas in favor of Nathaniel. Silariathas agrees and when he steps out of the circle, he is Silas again. Elisabeth bears the demon mark with no gift of magic of her own, but Nathaniel’s magic has been restored. Silas warns Elisabeth to never set him free, no matter how dire the need for his true power is or how frightening whatever they are facing might be. Without a doubt, in his true form with no barriers, he is worse.
In the days that follow, Ashcroft is dragged through the newspapers with the Magisterium hunting him down, though he is believed to be hiding behind the wards of Ashcroft Manor. While Elisabeth waits for Nathaniel to fully recover since the summoning took a lot out of him, a package from Katrien arrives! It’s a map of Austermeer and on it, she has marked the attacks in red ink. Later, when things are heating up between Elisabeth and Nathaniel, Silas unfortunately has to interrupt them because something is happening to the Codex Daemonicus... It’s transforming into a Malefict.
When Elisabeth and Nathaniel reach the study, it looks like the Codex is being tortured. Without hesitation, Elisabeth goes into the Codex taking Nathaniel with her, and finds the workshop in disarray. Prendergast is crumpled on the floor and as grumpy as ever. Ashcroft somehow found a way in and Prendergast couldn’t resist the torture and told him everything: the Great Libraries form a pentagram and Cornelius Ashcroft built the Great Libraries as a form of summoning circle. Defeating Maleficts and sabotaging each library is part of the summoning process for a great evil, a creature of almost limitless power: Archon. They must journey to Harrow with all haste. Prendergast gives some of his blood to them to drink which will transport them through the Otherworld to Harrows.
They arrive close to their destination; Silas can’t accompany them inside so he disappears into the forest in his cat form, and Elisabeth and Nathaniel finish the journey on foot. The Great Library of Harrows is cut into a mountain and rises like a black citadel surrounded by barricades. Thankfully they are able to gain admittance and are granted an audience with the Director if all weapons are left outside and Nathaniel is shackled. As they walk to the Director’s office, they can hear the screams of a captive Malefict that guards the vault but that they also use for combat practice coming from the dungeon. It’s not a pleasant place. As news of Ashcroft’s betrayal hasn’t reached Harrow yet, the Director doesn’t believe their claims and says Elisabeth is addled by demons. The Director orders them to the dungeon to wait out their claims.
Though Nathaniel has every faith Silas will come to rescue them, because he always does, the wait is horrible. As Silas is no amateur, he sneaks into the dungeon and is able to free them with a set of wardens’ keys he managed to pick up, and they even find Demonslayer on their way to the vault. First, they need to get around the Malefict guard who is the size of a house and trapped in an arena style pit. Behind it is the vault protected by a portcullis. Before they can do anything, the Director enters heading toward the vault. To get past, the Director uses his key which drags the Malefict up, making it hang like an animal waiting to be slaughtered. Elisabeth hurries after the Director and prepares to stop the Malefict, but they plunged into darkness by the Malefict’s massive form; however it doesn’t attack because Silas has bitch slapped it down. As they sneak through the halls of the vault, they find a warden under a sleep spell. Suddenly it dawns on Elisabeth, but it’s too late. It’s not the Director they followed into the vault… Then Ashcroft steps out of the gloom and offers them a grotesque smile.
Ashcroft has been possessing the Directors and forcing them to perform the sabotages of their own libraries. Ashcroft taunts Elisabeth with the Summershall Director’s possession and death as they move into the vault’s center where the Class Ten grimoires reside. The Librum Draconum, The Oraculis, and The Chronicles of the Dead. Ashcroft pulls the Director’s sword and inserts it into a hidden mechanism in the middle of the Great Library sigil carved into the floor, and opens a passage, creating a crack into the cavern. While Elisabeth tries to run, Ashcroft plunges his hand into the living heart of The Chronicles of the Dead, causing it to transform into a Malefict before relinquishing his control of the Director.
With a small touch, the Malefict empties the Director of his life, and he explodes to dust when he lands. Then the Malefict turns to Elisabeth but she and Nathaniel manage to escape through the weakened portcullis, its bars having been twisted from Ashcroft’s actions earlier. In the distance, they hear a warning bell toll. When they exit the underground hallways, it’s into the chaos of battle. The Malefict is drawing strength from each life it takes. The battle rages and the new Director enlists Nathaniel’s help to put down the creature even though Directors never trust Sorcerers. Silas can’t fight it because the book was created by Baltasar Thorn, his old master, and his orders forbid from fighting it even after Baltasar’s death. Elisabeth toys with the idea of setting Silas free… but she doesn’t ((thank goodness!)). As the Great Library crashes around them, Nathaniel has an idea so crazy it just might work, but Elisabeth isn’t going to let him do it alone. As Nathaniel walks toward the Malefict, Elisabeth heads toward the nearest cannon and fires. The cannonball hits its mark and explodes with salt causing the Malefict to reel back, but then it catches Nathaniel and its whispers infect his mind, turning him against the girl he loves. Realization washes over Elisabeth and she steps down from the cannon and into Nathaniel’s arms, the vial of Prendergast’s blood around Nathaniel’s neck is now empty. As they disappear, the Malefict howls in fury.
Elisabeth, Nathaniel, Silas and the head of the Malefict materialize in an unfamiliar parlor, stunning the ladies who were taking tea. Realizing they are only a short distance from the Royal Library, they dash off leaving stunned footmen in their wake. As they run through the streets, ribbons of aetherial combustion fill the sky, the Archon is here and with it, lesser demons and fiends which have begun to fill the streets. Now they must battle their way to the Royal Library, and the sight that awaits them draws Elisabeth up short. There at the end of the grand hallway a slash reveals a cobalt sky filled with stars. The books that once lined the hallway float weightless around the portal's edge. Elisabeth casts about and finds a secret passage amongst the bookcases, and with a polite request, it opens for her and leads them to where they need to go: the restricted archives.
As they pass by the grimoires, their whispers pass over Elisabeth, they will let them through safely, but are impatient for her to get on with it. Elisabeth understands the will of the library and starts to lift the chains and cages securing the books saying, “The library wants to fight back.” Reaching the atrium, they meet against an army of demons which the freed books attack, severely outnumbering them. Elisabeth and Nathaniel leave the books to it and go in search of Ashcroft. As they make their way through the library, they see books sacrificing themselves trying to repair the rifts to the Otherworld. In the middle of the atrium, they find Ashcroft’s summoning circle, and Ashcroft looking up at an inhuman figure, Archon. Ashcroft is trying to leash Archon to his command.
Ashcroft releases magical attacks which Nathaniel battles with his magical whip as Elisabeth makes her way forward. Taking the iron greatkey from Harrows she still has in her possession, Elisabeth lashes its thick iron chain around Ashcroft’s wrists which redden and swell instantly. Elisabeth then presses Demonslayer to his throat. The glow fades from Ashcroft’s eyes, Archon’s summoning can’t be revoked with his death, Archon is no ordinary demon. Ashcroft in his mania doesn’t see that the summoning circle cracked from the movement of the tiled floor, or hear Archon’s voice, nor the giant luminous hand stretching above him, its palm descending to swat him like a fly. Elisabeth saves him at the last second. She wanted to see Ashcroft’s face when the truth finally hit him then kicks him away before returning to Nathaniel and Silas. Serenity passes over Elisabeth as she realizes they are going to die. Then, she frees Silariathas from his bond.
Silariathas only has eyes for Nathaniel. Nathaniel is prepared to die and forgives Silas. A hint of Silas still resides in Silariathas and despite his hunger, he kisses Nathaniel’s hand then turns to Archon. He cannot win against Archon in a fight, but he can end the ritual and send Archon back to the Otherworld. Turning, Silas walks into the light.
At the Collegium with Katrien, Elisabeth is a fidgety mess awaiting the arrival of Mistress Wick. She enters with aplomb and authority and informs Katrien that her transfer to the Royal Library has been granted. Her efforts against Ashcroft and exposing ex-Director Finch’s crimes helped her case. To Elisabeth, Mistress Wick offers a newly forged greatkey and a reinstatement of her apprenticeship, however Elisabeth doesn’t feel that she wants to be a warden any longer. She doesn't know what she wants to be. Mistress Wick tells her the offer will remain open. Waiting for her outside is Nathaniel. He no longer has his magic and the library no longer has Elisabeth. They saved the world together, and now, they’ll figure out what to do next. Their attempts to summon Silariathas back have been unsuccessful, but then on a whim Elisabeth lights the candles around the summoning circle in Thorn Manor and whispers the name Silas instead of Silariathas. A breeze flows through the room and all five candles go out at once.