State Archive No. 7 in East Berlin was, until it burned down, a repository of documents modern and ancient. Its upper stacks were typical of any library; but its lower levels were a honeycomb of stone-built cellars. These were not open to the people who came to consult the archive. They were therefore familiar only to those who worked there—and even they had no idea of the full details of the holdings of the Archive. The cellars contained makeshift shelves full of old books, maps, and other documents; and there were numerous boxes of uncatalogued material from diverse sources.
In 1966, Nick Knight went to East Berlin with the intention of searching State Archive No. 7 for the Abarat, an ancient book of magic reputed to contain a cure for vampirism. He was discovered in the stacks; but the chief archivist was persuaded not to turn him in to the police, but rather to assist him in his search, because Nick knew a secret tunnel to the West and promised to help the man and his family escape.
It was Lili, the archivist's daughter, who was Nick's principal assistant in searching for the Abarat. Since the documents stored in the ancient cellars of the Archive had never been properly catalogued, they spent a long time tracking down any clue they came across that might indicate the whereabouts of the book in the Archive's holdings.
Nick's master, Lucien LaCroix, did not want him to find a way to become mortal again. He therefore informed the police that the archivist and his family were working with an American. They were forced to flee Berlin before Nick had uncovered the Abarat. He returned from escorting them to safety to discover that the State Archive building was on fire. LaCroix had decided to burn it down, and destroy the book.