Singed Books And Broken Worlds
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In Section 7-Mephistopheles-Pludeion of the Wanderer's Library, a sudden rush of air caused the pages of a book, laid open on a wooden table, to ruffle. People present in the reading hall of Section 7-Mephistopheles-Pludeion turned to look at the direction of the breeze, and saw that a Way had opened on the far wall and sucked the air within itself. Their faces twisted into an expression of horror and panic, as a sudden realization dawned on them. They were all going to die.

There was a silent beat, as everything fell quiet and still. Then, chaos broke out. The space was filled with a loud groan and then a loud boom, as the Way violently collapsed, sending a wave of uncontained magical energy rushing forwards. Wood was splintered and books were torn apart by the savage strength of the pulse, sending pages and dust flying in the air. The first person to get hit by the wave immediately turned to stone, which was then shattered by it. Another simply blinked out of existence, while the third was turned inside out. After the wave dissipated, the only thing left intact was a single Docent, standing in the middle of the destroyed room.

Wordsmith Mazen, one of the most powerful mages specializing in concept magic within the Wordsmith Guild, was leaning against a wooden railing, keeping an eye on the people below, when she heard the explosions. One after another, they echoed through the halls of the Library, some coming from afar, others from somewhere close by. Others heard it too, and in a fraction of a second, the comforting static of the Library was replaced with disorienting panic.

People, who had previously been just minding their own business, began to move. Some people ran towards Ways in hopes of escaping to another reality, some ducked for cover, while others just ran around panicked, unsure of what to do. A family of Tarmongers huddled together and secreted a quickly hardening liquid, creating a quick shelter for themselves. On the floor below, a puff-zinger swell to ten times its original size, pushing aside people and knocking over bookcases, in a natural reaction to fear.

"Come back Salvador, you stupid bird!" shouted an elderly goblin, running after a panicking falcon of some sort.

"Everybody, stay away from Ways!" Mazen yelled, but her warnings got lost within the chaos. Cursing to herself, she ran off in hopes of finding another Wordsmith who could tell her what was happening.

Continuing her search, Mazen headed towards a narrow corridor. A decision which she came to regret only moments later, as a tide of people heading to the other direction reached it at the same time, forcing Mazen to push through a current of bodies, making next to no progress. Trying to get past, the people pushed her from side to side, surrounding her from all directions and completely obscuring her view. Her breathing became labored, shallow and uneven, as she felt anxiety raising its ugly head within her chest. Her heart felt as if it skipped a beat at every explosion.

Then, there was a sharp pain, caused by a wooden spike slicing her cheek as the left side wall of the corridor exploded outwards, causing splinters to fly like shrapnel. The next thing to hit was the shockwave, which threw her off her feet, and sent her flying towards the opposite wall. Her head hit the wood and then there was blackness.

When she opened her eyes again, the first thing she saw was the familiar red cloak of a fellow Wordsmith. They had many arms and they were saying something, but she couldn't hear any words through the shrill ringing in her ears. Even the explosions sounded distant, muffled. The red glow of Docents hung heavily in the air, as they inspected the dead bodies sprawled throughout the corridor.

"Can you hear me?" they asked, their voice becoming gradually clearer as the ringing subsided.

"Yeah…" she managed to force out. Her voice was dry and speaking hurt her throat. There was a pulsating sensation in her head, and she could feel her robes sticking to her skin, wet with blood. She didn't want to think who it belonged to.

"Can you walk?" they asked and offered one of their grey, skeletal hands.

"I think so…" she said, grabbing her arm and letting her colleague pull her up. She let out a pained grunt.

"Alright, let's go," the other Wordsmith said, wrapping their arms around Mazen for support. She tried taking a step, but lost her balance and lurched forwards, being caught by the other Wordsmith. "Easy now."

They led her through the corridor to the next room, a reading hall. They set her sitting on a comfortable, green sofa, before beginning to chant various healing spells to stitch her wounds and clear her head. She felt the sounds rapidly rushing back to her as her vision cleared and the room stopped spinning. A suddenly very audible explosion somewhere nearby caused her to slightly jump. She thanked the other Wordsmith, took a few deep breaths and a moment to gather her thoughts, before turning towards them.

"What's the situation? What is happening?" she asked.

The other Wordsmith opened their mouth, but then hesitated. It looked as if they didn't want to say what was going on. "A universe is collapsing," they finally got out.

Mazen was dumbfounded. It was common for the Wanderers' Library to close off Ways leading to dimensions that are corrupted, empty or otherwise extremely dangerous towards the Library and its patrons, but those Ways still existed, they were simply inaccessible. A collapsing universe was a different beast entirely, as it caused the connected Ways, the bridges and pathways between dimensions, to physically snap in half, which agitated the space between dimensions, causing it to release rogue waves of uncontained magical energy to rush through the remains of the Way, like a final outtake of air after the body is already dead. An event like this was extremely rare and the last time it happened had been thousands of years ago.

"Uhh… how many Ways are connected to it? How much longer will this last?"

"I don't know, but I do know that the universe in question was large and populated, so probably a lot. If this goes on for much longer, it could cause some serious damage to the Library. People will continue to die," they said, a gravely expression on their grey face, causing the shadows cast by the ridges in their face to look longer. Mazen thought, biting her lip as she did so.

"Do you know why the universe is collapsing?" she asked, a seed of a plan forming in her mind.

"No, I don't."

"So there's a chance that it could potentially be stopped from doing that?"

"Yeah, I guess so. Where are you getting at with this?" they asked, seriousness turning into a concerned confusion.

"I think you know. One last question, does the universe have a Foundation?" she asked, a slight smirk on her lips.

"Oh, you can't be serious."

Ten minutes later, Mazen was standing in front of a Way, which, for the moment, was still stable. She whistled the first few chords of Judy Garlan's Over The Rainbow, fulfilling the Knock assigned to the Way and opening it. Her magical sixth sense felt the Way beginning to destabilize as a result, so she closed her eyes and reached out with her mind. It traveled in to the Way and slipped past the physical reality, into the world of concepts. She grabbed the concept of the Way with her mind, feeling it writhe and scream in her grip like an angry snake. "You are a Way. You are stable," she said, forcing the concept to comply with her perception of reality. It wouldn't last long though, so without another thought or word, she pulled her mind back and walked through.

Upon arrival on the other side, she found herself standing in the middle of a fountain, which in part was in the center of a market square, which seemed to be in the middle of a large metropolitan city. Somewhat surprisingly, everything looked normal at first. Then she looked at the sky. Like oil mixed with water, it was dotted with patches of ugly, shifting colors that mixed in with each other, causing unnatural swirls and patterns to appear. In other parts, it looked as if the sky had broken, with stars and the void between them being fully visible in the middle of the day. The stars which were visible as a cause of this, were blinking out, one after another, like candles snuffed in the dark.

Mazen saw a storm cloud form in a literal second, strike a building with lightning and set it on fire, and then disappear in the blink of an eye, as if it was never there. On a side street, gravity seemed to suddenly stop working. Police, firemen and ambulances were practically everywhere, bravely attempting to deal with a situation which was light years beyond their capabilities. Knowing that the Foundation had a tendency of infiltrating emergency services, she promptly walked up to a roadblock, which prevented people from venturing into an area, which appeared to have become a static vacuum.

"Ma'am, I'm gonna have to ask you to-"

"I want to speak with the Foundation," she said, bluntly cutting the officer off.

"Excuse me?" said the officer, tilting his head and scrunching his ball-shaped face in visible confusion.

"What's your name? Who are you?" asked another officer behind him.

"Wordsmith Mazen Gal from the Wanderers' Library. I have knowledge that may help you understand what's happening, or even stop it," she explained, looking straight at the other officer and completely ignoring the annoying first one, whose confusion seemed to be growing by the second.

"Follow me," said the officer and walked past Mazen to his car. "I'll take you to the Foundation."

Mazen looked at the car and shook her head. "No time.Tell me the exact location of the nearest Foundation Site that you know to have knowledge of this catastrophe," and the officer, after a short moment of hesitation, complied.

Mazen closed her eyes again. This time, her mind branched off in different directions within the world of concepts and grabbing three at a time. The first one was the concept of location. Something so broad and powerful was practically impossible to move on its own, but she forced her mind to dig deeper into it and connect it to the concepts of the officer and herself. Following this, she dragged the concepts relative to each other so that when she opened her eyes, they were standing in the middle of a corridor with white, sterile walls. Somewhere far away, another police officer looked blankly at the space that they had previously occupied and then began to cry.

Even in a state of distress, the Foundation worked efficiently. Intruder alarms began to blare the moment they appeared, and within minutes they were apprehended by armed guards and escorted in to an interrogation room, where they were soon joined by an aging, balding man with a suit and tie, whom the Foundation agent disguised as an officer referred to as the Director.

"Sir, this woman says that she has information about the ongoing anomaly, and that she can help us. She's from the Wanderers' Library," the officer said, keeping his back straight and his legs together. The Site Director looked at Mazen.

"Serpent's Hand?" he asked then. Mazen let out an amused chuckle. Jailors, she thought.

"Not everyone from the Library is with the Hand. I'm a Wordsmith. A peacekeeper within the Library," she explained.

"Then what are you doing here? The Library has never expressed interest in our matters before," he said with a skeptic tone.

"The gradual collapse of your universe is causing Ways connected to it to explode within the Library. People are dying," she explained, looking the Director directly in the eyes and seeing horror swell within them.

"The gradual… what, of our universe?" he asked, his voice shaky and weak as he slowly sat on the chair on the other side of the table, almost tripping in the process. Mazen turned her back towards him and put her hands on her face.

"You don't know, do you?" she asked but nobody answered. With a deep sigh, she turned around again.

"Do you at least know what caused this? When did this start?"

"It was when we killed that thing in Neptune," said the officer with a monotone voice, looking nowhere in particular.

"What thing?" Mazen asked, concern bleeding through her voice. She had a very bad feeling about this.

"A god. We found it sleeping inside Neptune and we had evidence that it was about to wake up. The O5's didn't want to risk it and see what would happen, so they ordered it to be killed. We did it. We actually killed a god. Shot a hole through its heart and saw it disintegrate. Then, immediately after, all of this started happening," he explained, taking off his glasses and rubbing his face. Mazen let out a loud, desperate exclamation as she felt her stomach drop. She sat on the floor and buried her face as the familiar feeling of the room spinning returned. Her hands got cold and wet, as tears ran from her eyes.

"You killed a creation god," she said between hyperventilating. The god responsible for the creation of a universe is called a creation god. Their essence is fundamentally woven into the very fabric of their universe. If they die, that fabric begins to unravel. The thought of the Serpent, the creation god of the Wanderers' Library, dying caused violent shivers to run down her spine. Voice and body shaking, she got up.

"I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do for you. I know what I must do," she said and disappeared.

In the blink of an eye, she was back at the fountain. Pushing aside her fear and anxiety, she stepped into the fountain with determination. She whistled again, and allowed herself to be swallowed by the Way. This time, she didn't take the time to stabilize it. She didn't need to go all the way.

As she was carried through the Way, a tunnel made of brilliant blue light, she reached out with her mind once again. This time, it didn't go far. It reached down, plunging within her as it entered the world of concepts. With all her might, she grabbed the concept of herself as tightly as she could and began to pull. Her body writhed and changed, losing cohesiveness, as it was being stripped of its cosmic identity. The concept screamed, attempting to keep a hold of whatever aetheric thread connected it to a physical representation, to keep it from losing meaning. Its struggles were futile, because Mazen was stronger. With a few, strong pulls by her mind, the concept was separated.

Mazen had been broken in three parts. Her soul, untethered to anything, floating within the cosmic background noise. Her concept, stripped of meaning, it hung in the world of concepts, losing cohesiveness and slowly fading out of reality. Her body, nothing but a pile of flesh held together and maintained within physical reality through subsidiary concepts. The concept of flesh, the concept of a corpse, and so on.

Then the parts were reduced to two, as the Way, pulled taut between realities, couldn't handle the tension anymore and snapped, instantly plunging the remains of Mazen's body into the void between realities, where it was instantly vaporized.

Finally, the parts became one once again, as Mazen's mind and soul slipped into the concept. As a container, the concept was nothing compared to an actual body. It had no real form, and it kept sliding and shifting uncomfortably like a blanket cover that is too big for the blanket itself. In addition, it was bleeding. Untethered to existence, it was becoming less and less real by the second. There was not much time.

The concept of Mazen slipped into the void between realities. A brilliant web of Ways, connecting millions of dimensions. It shimmered in colors that defied explanation or comprehension. Shades and lights that human eyes were never meant to see. It looked like a broken mirror, with cracks that went on for eternity, a sundown that never ceased, but was constantly shifting in hue, and an impossibly large tree, that went up and down forever, with innumerable branches that held innumerable apples, all at once. Some of the apples were large and supple, some were small and others tasteless, while some were rotten to the core.

The concept of Mazen began to do what it came here to do. If it had had a back it would have set it up against the trunk of the tree, and if it had had feet, it would have set them against an apple and then it would have began to push. Non-existing tentacles whipped out from it, as they integrated themselves in to the concepts of the two worlds and began to pull and push. The apple was soft, and its surface began to crack. Lines of web and branches were pulled taut, and separated from the tree, but not broken. The void groaned. A loud rumble pulsed through the space, caused by a domino effect of vibrating strands of web. Slowly, the apple began to get further, its stem getting looser. At the same time, the concept of Mazen bled profusely. It was now less than half real. It began to push harder, harder than it had ever had before. If it had had a mouth and a voice, it would have screamed.

The stem snapped. The apple dropped, disconnected from the tree. It folded into itself an infinite amount of times, before exploding in a wave of brilliant, multicolored lights that embedded themselves within other apples, like seeds taking refuge. But Mazen wasn't there to see it. In fact, Mazen was nowhere at all.

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