When a hero falls, another will rise. From authors Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson comes Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians, the thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians saga. Enjoy this exclusive excerpt from Book 6—available now wherever books are sold!
So there I was, in my pajamas, having a perfectly good nap, when the world decided to end.
I awoke to the distinct scent of cinnamon, and a sense of growing dread. I was strapped to a bed in a room I recognized from the Penguinator—the Smedry family’s glass ship. Beneath the cinnamon was a faint burning smell, like someone had set a bakery on fire.
The last thing I remembered was throwing a teddy bear at a massive robot in the Free Kingdom of Mokia. I did not know why I, Bastille Vianitelle Dartmoor the Ninth, Princess of Nalhalla and Knight of Crystallia, would now be in a burning Penguinator in my pajamas. I had even less idea what the Penguinator would be doing in a burning bakery. But I knew it must have something to do with the Smedrys. Where there are Smedrys, there are Smedrys in trouble.
It was my job to keep them out of trouble, and there I was, lying in bed.
I sat straight up, finding my sword also strapped to the table next to me. I snatched it by its hilt and pulled it free, then used it to slice through my own restraints. I carried the sword with me as I ducked through the door and moved toward the hatch of the Penguinator. The hatch had been damaged in a crash, and I drew upon my Crystin strength. Power flowed through my Fleshstone—a crystal embedded in the back of my neck, which connected me to the Mindstone, and through it to all the Knights of Crystallia. I gave the hatch a mighty kick with my bare foot.
The hatch gave a resounding clang, and then fell open. I looked out into a wide cavern filled with small stone huts. The wreckage of the Penguinator was smoking a bit, but I wasn’t in a bakery. I was somewhere far worse.
Not just a library, from the looks of it, but the library. An archive this vast could only be the Highbrary, be- neath what the Hushlanders called Washington, DC.
At the center of the room was a tower, crowned by an altar built out of massive stacks of outdated encyclopedias.
On that altar was strapped a thirteen-year-old boy with messy, dark brown hair.
I didn’t know what the Librarians were trying to do to him, but whatever it was, I was going to stop it.
The Librarians must have anticipated this, because every last one of them turned their guns on me and fired. Only Librarians would come at me with such primitive weapons. I dodged, drawing on my Crystin powers to lend me speed and precision as I used my sword to deflect some of the bullets back at the shooting Librarians, who ducked for cover.
I leaped out of the doorway of the fallen Penguinator and bobbed through the maze of huts. This room was some kind of central chamber filled with many archive buildings, some of which were overflowing with oddities like cards with strange symbols and small writing. (I have since learned from Alcatraz that these were “Magic cards,” though there didn’t seem to be anything magical about them to me.)
The Librarians continued to shoot at me, and more opened fire from up on the tower where they were holding Alcatraz. I dashed between the buildings, my sword held out in front of me, and wove toward the central tower.
I got there just in time to see a Librarian partway up the peak loosening the bolts on the metal stairway that led up the side of the tower. One section tumbled down with a crash, and the Librarian moved on to the next one. I reached for the Crystin power, pushing faster up the stairs, while the frightened Librarian tried frantically to loosen more of the stair bolts. When I made it to the missing section, I leaped and grabbed the lowest stair with my free hand, then hoisted myself up. I had barely climbed onto the step when a light flashed from the top of the tower, followed by a deafening, anguished scream.
Another scream followed. It sounded like Alcatraz.
A pulsing metallic sound rang through the room as a Librarian airship, the kind with the big blades spinning atop it to hold it aloft, approached the peak.
It landed on the tower. They were going to take Alcatraz and Attica away with them; I had to stop them. I charged up the winding stairs and encountered another cluster of Librarians aiming their guns down at me.
They opened fire. I twisted, deflecting some of the bullets with my sword while dodging the rest, then launched myself into the air and landed right in front of the Librarians. They stumbled back, and I grabbed the one closest to the tower and punched him in the face, then shoved him into the others. The group of them fell from the stairs, leaving the pathway clear.
Footsteps pounded the stairs behind me, and I turned, whipping my sword up.
“It’s just me!” Lord Kazan, Alcatraz’s uncle, shouted. My mother, Draulin, was right behind him, looking like she wanted to leap over his head (Kaz was only four feet tall, so that was hardly a challenge even without the powers of the knighthood) to press on without him. They’d gotten past the gap in the stairs—to this day, Kaz won’t tell me how he did it, but I suspect that my mother threw him.
Above us, the Librarian airship lifted off the tower.
Alcatraz. Without an airship of our own we wouldn’t be able to follow, but I raced up the remaining stairs all the same. If I got there fast enough, maybe I could leap onto the airship. Maybe I could save him.
It turned out not to matter. We were too late, but not in the way I expected.
Alcatraz lay crumpled at the foot of the altar, leaning his head against an encyclopedia labeled X&Y. Attica was still here too—
Or his body was—lying on the altar, broken and bloody, his heart removed from his chest.
“Alcatraz?” I said.
“Oh, Glass, no!” Kaz said, coming up behind me and moving toward Attica.
It was too late. We were too late. Alcatraz must have seen what they did to Attica, and—
“Kaz,” my mother said, “we have to go.”
At the time, I didn’t know that Alcatraz’s grandfather Leavenworth Smedry had pushed a self-destruct button. We did indeed have to go, as you will see very shortly.
At that moment though, I was more concerned with the terrible thing the Librarians had done to Attica. I was too late to stop it, but if the Librarians had escaped, we needed to know who they were and where they were going next. “Alcatraz, who was up here with you? A ship flew down and carried them off. Why did they leave you? Can you hear me?”
Alcatraz didn’t respond.
“Pick him up, Bastille,” my mother said. “With Leaven- worth and Attica dead, Alcatraz is now the last member of the direct Smedry line. We must get him to safety.”
Leavenworth was dead? That couldn’t be right. The old Smedry was like the wind or like . . . like birthday parties. The kinds of things you hate, but they sneak up on you anyway. Relentless and unavoidable.
I shook my head. Leavenworth was probably fine.
We’d escape and find him somewhere in his little tuxedo, chuckling to himself and wondering what took us all so long.
Kaz looked up at my mother, his mouth set in a grim line.
Shattering Glass, what happened here?
“They’re scattering quickly,” Kaz said. “I think the Librarian leaders must not have turned off the detonation that Pop set up. Why would they abandon so much? The Highbrary itself? And my brother . . . What is going on here?”
It didn’t matter. My mother was right. Alcatraz was my responsibility. I’d failed him once—had it been only once?—and I wasn’t going to do it again. I hefted him over my shoulder, turned my back on the altar of encyclopedias, and started to run down the stairs.
As I ran, Kaz’s words started to sink in. “What did you mean, detonation?” I shouted over my shoulder.
“The library is going to self-destruct!” Kaz called, much closer than I expected him to be. When I glanced back, I found that my mother had lifted him onto her shoulders and was running along directly on my heels. “Pop triggered it to make the Librarians panic. He assumed they’d be able to turn it off, but maybe they chose not to.”
That didn’t make sense. The Highbrary was a Librarian holy site—they were trying to build another Alexandria. They wouldn’t let all that be destroyed.
Unless they had a very good reason. I had a lot of questions, but this was not the time to ask them. Alcatraz, slung over my shoulder, groaned softly. He’d opened his eyes, but was staring sightlessly.
I’m sorry you had to see that, I thought. Attica hadn’t been the best dad around, but he was Alcatraz’s father all the same.
In the past, I’d seen Alcatraz smile and joke and complain and mope through situations I wasn’t sure we would survive. The fact that he wasn’t complaining or mop- ing now was a testament to how bad things were. He’d watched Librarians butcher his father in front of his eyes. That does terrible things to a person.
So I didn’t mind carrying him. I didn’t expect him to simply snap out of this. Seeing something like that happen to someone you love, however complicated your relationship—it changes you.
But I hoped he’d be able to recover, for his sake.
We reached the gap in the stairs and I leaped over it, carrying Alcatraz with me. My mother landed behind me with a clang, and as I reached the bottom of the stairs she pulled ahead of me, Kaz still riding on her shoulders.
“What exactly is our plan?” I asked. “Escape!” Kaz called back to me.
I had already gathered that much, though I don’t know what else I was expecting. The Smedrys liked to bumble through things rather than plan them out.
I was hoping this might be something of an exception, mostly because I had no desire whatsoever to get blown up this early in a story. Explosions are terrible for your skin, and don’t even ask what they do to your hair. We ran between what felt like hundreds of little stone huts, all filled to the brim with junk. It was like the Librarians were a cult composed only of bargain-hunting grandmothers. The paths between the huts were also stone, and some curved high into the air, forming natural-
A few Librarians scampered across our path, wearing dark robes and clutching bottle caps, license plates, and cookbooks.
I swear, these grandmothers would catalog anything. “There!” Kaz said, pointing to the hollow behind one
of the stone staircases. Alcatraz’s cousin Folsom Smedry was sheltered there, along with his new wife, Himalaya, and their team of reformed Librarians.
We approached them, and my mother stooped to allow Kaz to climb from her shoulders. I carried Alcatraz beneath the safety of the alcove as rocks tumbled down from the ceiling, smashing buildings.
My mother looked at Alcatraz and me with concern. You might think that was warranted given the circum- stances, but this is my mother we’re talking about. I can count the number of times she’s looked at me with concern on one hand, even if I cut half the fingers off first.
Kaz scanned the ceiling for falling debris and then ran over to the wreckage of the Penguinator. We weren’t going to be using that to get out of here, though maybe it would contain something useful.
I dropped Alcatraz, less than gently, and surveyed our situation. Some ropes led down from a large hole in the ceiling, but they’d all been cut short so the ends dangled dozens of feet up in the air—too high to reach.
I sighed. Looked like there was only one thing to do. “Lord Kazan,” I called, “you should probably use your Talent to get us out of here.”
Smedry Talents were something of a mixed bag— every member of the Smedry bloodline had their own unlikely and unpredictable power. I like things to be solid, trustworthy, repeatable. If not those things, then at least stabbable.
The Talents were none of those things. You could never tell what you were going to get when you engaged one. Kaz had a Talent for getting lost—so he could probably get us out of the Highbrary before it exploded. I didn’t know where we’d end up, but virtually anywhere would be better than here.
Kaz pulled a briefcase out of the Penguinator and brushed off some fragments of glass. Then he looked back at me, wearily.
All the others were staring at me. “What?” I demanded.
“The Talents don’t work anymore,” Himalaya said. “Alcatraz broke them.”
“He broke the Talents?” Alcatraz’s Talent is the most powerful and terrible of all: he breaks things. But to break the Talents themselves—how would that even work? “You’re kidding me.”
“Afraid not,” Folsom said. “None of our Talents are functioning anymore. Haven’t since the battle for Mokia.”
I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Leave Alcatraz with a bucket of purple paint, and you’d find him not only with a broken bucket, but with a pile of blue paint on one side and red paint on the other. He’d be covered in it too, most likely. Honestly, sometimes my charge to protect the Smedrys felt a lot like babysitting a bunch of three-year-olds.
I should probably have been happy. Smedrys without Talents should be like marginally less chaotic three-year-olds. But they were also less likely to get us out of here before the library exploded, so maybe they were more like three-year-olds, now that I thought about it.
“All right,” my mother said, “what are our options?” “Explode,” Kaz said.
We all glared at him.
“What?” he said. “It is an option . . .”
I retreated farther beneath the stairs as another Librarian airship flew overhead. On second glance though, it looked like this one had been commandeered by a group of dinosaurs who were flying it in a zigzag pattern toward the hole in the ceiling. If they saw us, they didn’t return to help us.
“We need a vehicle,” Folsom Smedry said. I’ve always thought of Folsom as one of the less annoying Smedrys. In the sense that one incessantly ringing alarm clock can be less annoying than another. Though I was going to miss his Talent for dancing really poorly, if the remaining Librarians stopped panicking about their bottle caps long enough to notice that we didn’t belong here. I glanced at the shaking ceiling. “I don’t know if we have time to go searching. This whole place seems like it’s going to blow.”
“No, no,” Himalaya said. “It’s not that kind of self-destruct mechanism. My former friends might be evil, but they wouldn’t want to risk blowing up all the people in Washington, DC, when their Highbrary self-destructed.”
“What, then?” I asked.
“Oh,” the good Librarian said, “I suspect that the mechanism will fill this place with magma. We won’t explode so much as melt.”
“So what do we do?” my mother asked as the cavern rumbled again. It did seem to be getting hotter in here. A group of Librarian minions ran past us, carrying armfuls of old receipts from a car wash. (Yes, they’ll archive anything with words on it. No, I don’t know what’s wrong with them.)
“We can’t escape,” Kaz said. “So . . . maybe we can turn the blasted thing off? Over the radio, Pop said he’d turned on this self-destruct mechanism somewhere near where he’d found the controls to the ventilation system.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Folsom said. “And by that I mean, AAAH! MAGMA! RUN!”
He pointed at a distant part of the cavern, where red-hot magma had begun to pour in through a hole in the stone wall, bringing with it a wave of heat and the smoldering smell of brimstone. The magma splattered onto the floor and then flowed downhill in our direction.
Collect the complete Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians saga—perfect for fans of The Last Kids on Earth and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series!