This is how they would take the Library: Floating on the air, arms outstretched, limned in red fire. They move inexorably towards us, mumbling the words that make it so. We do nothing. We do not reply. We have been here before, many times. The Library has been burned, dismantled, destroyed by them, but each time the texts are not there. The texts have been taken, secreted away, and so they come, the same as always.
A sentry posted to the wall sees them and sounds the alarm. We crowd up against the tops of the walls, watching their dreadful approach. We are, to a man, afraid. They are powerful.
We hurl few mundane weapons their way. They bat them away. I imagine them laughing as they do so. I loose an arrow at one of them, and the arrow flies straight until it encounters a spike of red fire and plunges to the ground, burning.
Prederios, my closest friend, speaks to his arrow. Its dullness begins to shine. It takes on that familiar preternatural blur. Others are doing the same, sending their words into the mundane wood and iron, hoping to make it… more.
An arrow speeds toward one of the floating figures, something enchanted. He senses it and seems to shrink back for a moment. Then a searing blast of fire. He is using great words, perhaps overestimating our prowess. Red fire battles with the darker flame exploding outward, but briefly. Both snuff out, leaving a visible tear. Air rushes in. The world stitches itself together, a chaotic door slamming shut.
Someone shoots another arrow, but this one is different. I can read it from where I stand. I have a great deal of respect for this weapon. It is itself a great word, wrapped up in mundane materials. Our attackers can sense it as well. Several of them turn their attention toward it before it can reach any one of them; they unleash a furious cataclysm, the sort of thing you hear tell of in texts but never expect to see in person.
The world quivers as the great words do battle, as its words are rewritten, reshaped, bent to the speaker’s will. This is the sort of fight that can start a world-fire. A world-fire, even a small one, is the only time the Schools come together. Whatever our differences, none of the Schools wishes to be remembered as the group who changed everything. Or anything. We don’t know what happens if something changes, if a world-fire isn’t extinguished.
The arrow explodes. I gasp. Someone very, very skilled has been marvelously clever. The shards pierce at least four or five of the men. One grasps at his belly, trying to gather up the intestines that are spilling out. Another feels absentmindedly at his head, half of which seems to be missing. Fully three of them tumble from the sky. The others are too distracted to try to save their fellows.
Suddenly, it’s over. The remaining figures retreat, flying low over the landscape, back to their School’s building.
“Make sure we don’t have any civilian casualties!” shouts someone from a courtyard. Schools battling over arcana and minutiae is practically expected, but civilians dying means big fines. It’s one way the civilian government tries to control our seemingly random bursts of violence. We don’t kill the unschooled, we don’t disrupt their mundane lives too much, and we get to keep our charters and all the privileges and riches that go along with that.