“So,” Alice said, as they dismounted the weird beetle-tram in the University station, “what’s the deal with the… Aeonic Causeways? Is that what they were called?”
A Librarian looked puzzled. “Wait, I knew Causeways didn’t usually go to Materia, but you have no idea what they are?”
“She was living on a rock for her entire life, don’cha know,” said the fortune teller, grinning and winking when she glared at him.
“Look, well, um. Erm…” said A Librarian, as the enormity of Alice’s lack of knowledge started to hit him. “My optimistically-named office is this way, and we can discuss stuff there.”
– – –
The University of Foyer was a warren of bone and wood, a loose coalition of buildings clustered around the trunk of the Great Tree. Jutting up from the wooden tiled roofs were towers carved from gigantic serrated teeth – those of an enormous sapiovore that had attacked Foyer in ages past, she was informed by A Librarian. Its remains were twined around the Tree, but most were now hidden by more recent construction.
“So,” he said, ushering the pair of them into his office, “I’m going to start from the assumption that you don’t know anything.”
A Librarian’s office was barely larger than a broom cupboard, and the meagre floorspace was mostly occluded by stacks of papers nearly as tall as she was. Some of them looked very precarious. A Librarian bid them sit on a couple of half-buried chairs, shoved a pile of clutter to the edge of his desk, sat down atop it, and faced them.
“I made an erroneous assumption about how much people from Materia know about things – and for that, I apologise.”
“I wouldn’t say that I don’t know anything-”
“You don’t know what the trigflorbian floam is,” said Nik’s brother, “so why should we listen to what you have to say?”
“That’s because the trig, um, whatever floam isn’t real,” retorted A Librarian.
“You’re just in the pocket of Big Floam, denying the truth!”
A Librarian rolled his eyes and turned to Alice. “So, some of the history I’m going to recount here is disputed or hazy, but it’s mildly important to the hows and whys of things.”
“Flaaaaashback,” whispered the fortune teller, waggling his fingers.
– – –
The Beginning, when something that begun was time itself, is something of a limited concept. Nevertheless, at some point, there was nothing. There are places, still, where nothing chews at the fabric of the Real with teeth of anti-concept, such as Oblivion’s Reef and the Howling Range.
From something that wasn’t came two that were, casting away from each other, perfect antitheses. Is and Is-Not Itself, ancient and terrible from the moment they existed.
They perceived each other as everything they were not, feeling the first envy, the first wrath, the first lust, the first greed. They charged back at each other, tore into each other with blows and cries that still echo in the void to this day. Formless and terrible, they warred and made love and bargained and fought, tearing each other into smaller and smaller pieces in one mad eternal battle that started at the end of reality, and will end before it begins.
After the endless confrontation ceased, the corpses of Is and Is-Not Itself lay in pieces, its blood mingling with itself’s.
And then, Time Himself existed, had always existed, born in that and every moment.
“LET ONE THING FOLLOW ANOTHER,”
spake the Voice of Time.
From chronology was bought progression, and from some mixture, some ratio, some amalgamation of Is and Is-Not, was every Dominion wrought, crawling from out of the newly-formed Void and into the newly-formed Real.
– – –
“I still find it very difficult to believe that you didn’t previously know any of this,” said A Librarian, pausing in his retelling of the beginning of everything, “like, not even a little? Some kind of filtered-down myths?”
“As I keep telling you, not a sausage. Nil. Zip. There are maybe a couple of creation myths in some of Earth’s religions that are similar, but I’m not a religious scholar!”
“That’s a fair point. Now, I’m going to skip forward to some of the Library’s distant history.”
“Missing bits such aaaas,” said Nik’s brother, “the Coming of the Harbingers, the Shattering, Anathema War, Harrowing of the Void, Creation’s Rise, the Forging of the Law and probably a few others I can’t remember right now. Cryptic background references, one and all – look at all that exposition you’re missing!”
“Anyway,” A Librarian sighed, “back to the story.”
– – –
It began with a word.
And then another. Followed by another.
Two to the power of twenty three point five words, slightly more than twelve million, spoken by the earth-shattering, maddening Voice of Knowledge Herself, spinning the Realm known now as the Library out of the fabric of the Outer Void.
The Words now form the backbone of the Library’s unique magical system, Linguamancy. Correctly pronouncing or scribing a Word can start fires, steal souls, transmute air to glass or one of more than twelve million different effects.
But in order to create a Realm, Knowledge Herself cast down the First Demon of Ignorance, Her brother, the shadow She cast, the one that cast Her. His spine became the mountains of the Library, His skin became the paper, His black blood the ink and from His bones sprouted the very first Great Trees. She cradled Her creation, her fragment of What Is, of the Real, and wept life into it, for the brother She both loved and hated with every fibre of Her being.
With Thaumatic Art, She did place Motion and Will into the Library, creating the A Librarians – clever beings who would think and act; the Masquerade – thoughtful beings who would watch and ponder; and the Scripteraphim – zealous aeons who would order and record. These were the three original peoples of the Library, though there have been more since, evolving in the Library itself or arriving from other Realms.
Knowledge Herself placed sparks of divinity – Devotional Aeons, better known as gods – among the Library, to guide Her peoples, to assist the Scripteraphim. The ivory towers of the great city of Thought rose from the inky atrament and its pearlescent streets filled with life and colour. Grey science opened doorways to neighbouring Realms, and trade between these fragments of the Real abounded. The Demon King of Thought ruled fairly over the largest state of the Library, and the Tree that Foyer would eventually grow from was planted in his gardens. It was an age of miracles, lifted near-directly from the Void by the hands of Knowledge Herself.
Predictably, this was not to last.
From beyond death (for, as we know, true Dominions can Act, dead or alive), Ignorance Himself did craft dark reflections of the races of the Library, the first Antithetical Demons to grace the Realm. Bookburners, Jabbermockeries and, finally, the Accusative Devourer – eater of Names and stealer of faces.
The demons descended upon the Library, as the doors to other Realms slammed shut. The Demon King was dead, the Concourse of Angels – home of the Scripteraphim – was burning, and the Voice of Knowledge Herself fell silent. Predatory Book Wyrms roamed the brains of the people while demons the size of skyscrapers tore into the hosted ranks of the Library Angels.
The Age of Dark was over, and now dawned the Age of Flame.