Age of Flame

“It was the fourth Age, the twentieth by some calendars,” said the fortune teller, “and it was the Age in which It was Blazed.”

Despite herself, Alice snorted. “Please tell me that’s not actually true.”

A Librarian looked up, from where he was searching for some historical account in his massive piles of papers. “It isn’t.”

“The Age of Baking! That’s a much better pun!”

“Can we continue with the story?”

“Just a sec… aha!” A Librarian stood triumphantly, holding a dusty scroll. “The Tale of Inheritors, Causeways and Aeons!”

– – –

Bright and burning times had come upon the Library, and from the scattered reports filtering through from other Realms, things weren’t going well there either. The primary demons, the other half of Creation, the dead Dominions that did not lie eternal, were making their presence felt, and the Real faced multiversal war.

Into this age of broken gods and shattered machinery of Heaven was borne the Uniting Hero, an Untimely Heroine of Universal Humility and Unending Honesty. She tore into the Unholy Hordes of the massed demons with her great sword A Word, a blade ground so fine and sharp that it was invisible, save for the cuts it made. Such was its power that the Uniting Queen had a different and far less fantastically dangerous sword for situations where more finesse was required. With shadow and sword, she did wrest control of the City of Thought from a terrible crawling creature that had hatched from the sundered skull of the old Demon King. After battling for forty days and three point five nights, finally, with A Word, she did slice its head from its shoulders, freeing the city from its predations.

“It’s not like A Word,” said she, “it’s not a metaphor, or some wordplay or clever reference. Its name shall be Literally A Sword. Just a sharp piece of metal.”

“You’re no fun,” said her friend.

It was she who made an alliance with the ink giants that strode the Plains of Heir, using their prodigious strength and skill to craft the beginnings of the city of Foyer. She sang the Song of Growth, standing before the Great Sapling, and her black cloak billowed as the new Great Tree speared toward the Written Sky, piercing layer after layer of the Library in a series of deafening crashes.

What most accounts fail to mention was that she was nearly crushed by some falling rubble, and was thusly chewed out by one of her travelling companions for standing around like an idiot.

A Word was the first blade that cut gates into the impossibly hard trunk of the Great Tree, and apart from the direct intervention of various deities, the last blade to pierce it. Foyer grew into a bustling trade hub, situated as it was near where the city of Thought had fallen. One day, the Uniting Queen set off into one of the higher whildernesses, saying that she was finding her city a protector. Three weeks later, she returned: bloody and bruised, followed by the titanic serpent that represented the true Name of Knowledge Herself, similarly injured.

It was around this time that the the Demiurge Tarlûlaaork carved the first Bookbinders from the Great Bone Mountain – one of the ribs of Ignorance Himself that formed the bedrock of the Library. A just and intelligent people, they were employed as protectors and preservers of Foyer, and later spread across the entire Library – one of the early created peoples.

– – –

“So, what’s this got to do with the Causeways?” asked Alice.

“I was getting there,” said A Librarian, “it’s just that there’s a bunch of scene-setting and context that-”

Nik’s brother cut in. “He doesn’t know how to summarise.”

Hey! I do know how to summarise! And you weren’t helping with all those asides.”

“They are,” he said smugly, “historical facts. Straight from the truth. I’m a seer, I can tell these things.”

“No you can’t. These events happened nearly twenty thousand years ago. No mortal seer, retromancer or archaeomancer can see that far back.”

“Sez you.”

Says the facts! Anyway, to answer your question, Alice, the next bit of the story is about the Causeways. It begins with the arrival of the first Aeon Mage.”

– – –

The diurnal cycle of the Library had long been malfunctioning, but it was still a surprise when every light source in the Library deactivated, flickered, glowed red then black. Fresh blood condensed on every glass surface. The hosts of the Scripteraphim, every angel, from the young to the Archaic, screamed in pain, before uttering words of dread prophecy in a language that hadn’t been spoken since before the Library took form. The top of the very tallest tower of the ruined city of Thought was struck by lightning that burned with black fire, parting reality for the first of the Aeon Mages. She had torn through the firmament with broken fragments of grey science, escaping a dead Realm filled with ghosts and corpses. With darkling arts, she began to to twist the bone towers of Thought, cutting and shaping them to an unknown purpose, lifting thousand-tonne fragments of ivory with the pressure of her mind.

The Uncompromising Queen, worried by the reports, confronted this strange grey mage on the main concourse of Thought, where the interloper was constructing some kind of massive gate of bone and glass.

“Who are you? What are you doing?”

The stranger fixed the Queen with a piercing gaze. “I am no-one of importance. Leave me to my work.”

She sighed, pointing the invisible blade of A Word at the interloper. “You are not the first weird magician to do something strange and dangerous near my city. Leave in peace or explain what you’re doing, or I will make you leave.”

The mage regarded the sword, unimpressed. “My work will breach the firmament. Not worth concerning yourself about.”

“See! That’s exactly the kind of stupid crazy stuff I was talking about!”

After a brief confrontation, the Unencumbered Queen allowed the mage to continue her work, although she visited the old city on occasion to check up on her. Despite her initial suspicions, the Queen and the Mage became good friends, and the Mage became the main magical authority for the city of Foyer, having herself a great and broad knowledge of the arcane arts. Over a period of cycles and years, she built from the ivory and concept of Thought an Aeon’s Gate, one of the prototypes for what later became the Causeways, the entryway to a tunnel to the Void between Realms. At the time, the Void was an untamed place – far from the relative sanity it has these days – and the next part of this work of the Mage was to stake out paths of stability through the vast and teeming chaos, to Form the Unformed into something that could  bridge the ways to other Realms.

For this purpose, she vanished into the Void for months at a time, and while accounts are scattered, it was believed that she was engaging the massed hosts of the Void Angels (otherwise known as Inimical Demons) – those spirits without spirit that dwelt beyond the Real and devoured it, given half a chance. A number of times the Mage appeared through the Gate trailed by a number of terrifying daemonic beasts, which she enlisted the help of the Queen to defeat. It was a series of difficult battles, but to help her friend the Queen would move the glyphs of the skies themselves.

“You liiiike her, don’t you?”

“What? No! Shut up!”

“You’ve got it bad, ya know. I bet, if she had an actual surname, you’d be doodling ‘Mrs Surname’ in all your schoolbooks.”

Shut! Up!

Over time, the Mage became head of an order of magicians she trained, the order of Aeon Mages. With the help of the Queen, they cleared, staked and built the Aeon Causeways, and with the co-operation of other Realms they managed to stabilise them. It was a feat of thaumoengineering beyond measure, paths carved into the formless Void.

But this work took nearly five hundred years and several generations of the society of mages. The Unfulfilled Queen lived to the ripe old age of three hundred and fifty nine – quite old for a Gnomon, and had no heir. So it was by fiat of the Mage that the city of Foyer was handed over to the system of governance it still holds today. The first Aeon Mage, the wizard of Foyer, friend to The Original Majesty, continued to work throughout this time. It is rumoured that she handed the post as leader of the Aeon Mages to a successor – some said it was her child – after leading them for nearly two thousand years. Quite a long tenure, although no accounts reveal exactly what kind of Lower Sentient she was.

– – –

“However,” said A Librarian, “I’m getting into speculation. There’s only one Aeon Mage still active, and she’s not particularly talkative. Called the Triskelion, and the most recent holder of the order’s secrets. Must be kinda weird, seeing the order you joined wither around you.”

“I’ve met her,” said Nik’s brother.

“I really doubt that.”

“So,” said Alice, frowning, “the Causeways are ancient gates that lead to lines drawn between the Realms?”

“Pretty much.”

“I could use one of them to get home?”

“Theoretically, if they know the target they’re tuning the Causeway to. I don’t know lots about Materia.”

“What now, then?”

A Librarian brightened up. “Oh! Let’s stop chatting about ancient history and go to the lab, there’s science to do!”

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