Stars are breaking worlds are ending; a sun worshiping scientist and a Janitor try to help
The Sun, as far as vaguely important things go, could easily be considered the most vaguely important thing of them all. It keeps things bright when there's important things to be done- things whose importance isn't vague at all and is, in fact, disappointingly mundane.
It is this general vagueness, however, that even had it not been rather important at all, the sun still would have been quite popular. Warm summer days, strong harvest seasons and beautiful color-streaked skies. Yes, quite popular indeed.
There will always be people who take things to the nth degree however. Even if the nth degree was really just a comfortable third-degree, the comparative difference was simply that noticeable. Take for instance the Sun-Worshipers of the Vanishing Desert*; a small, selective bunch who not so much worship the sun as the name implies, but simply regard it as a rather important thing. More specifically, take note of one Desmond Walks-On-Clouds, who is about to have a large spherical object dropped on his head.
First there was a 'fwip', as if an object which had previously been quite content to not do much of anything at all suddenly found itself travelling at speeds that, had it been some form of automobile, would have attracted a number of flashing red-and-blue lights. Then there was a pause, quickly followed by a soft but audible 'thwump'.
A moment later what could only be described as a balloon floated up and out of sight.
Desmond rubbed his chin thoughtfully, watching as the latest projectile disappeared among the clouds. Above him stood a siege ballista, albeit one that was only capable of firing straight down, and rather than launching large and incredibly deadly bolts, it launched large not-quite-as-deadly rubber balls. They called it the Horizon, and it was used to test possible gaseous configurations of the sun.
It worked, for the most part. So long as one classified 'success' as 'an avoidance of failure'.
All in all, it hadn't been a bad test. It hadn't produced the result they were looking for, but nothing really went wrong either. Desmond was especially thankful for that, for if something had gone wrong he was fairly certain he would have ended up as something similar in color and consistency to red paint.
He eyed the Horizon, an unpleasant feeling in his gut as his imagination ran wild with that particular image. Suddenly his loose fitting clothes felt suffocatingly tight.
But such are the inherent dangers of human testing. As they say: 'To walk with the Sun is to walk with Death**.'
Desmond gingerly stepped out from under the incredibly deadly scientific apparatus and pointedly did not heave a sigh of relief. Scientists don't sigh. Slowly, he shuffled away from where the Horizon had been mounted against the side of a crumbling, sun-bleached ruin, and off into the desert. There was yet more work to be done, after all.
Meanwhile, several thousand miles away in a direction that could vaguely be described as 'up', or 'down' depending on your position, something rather peculiar was taking place. The sun- a rather important thing- sputtered, blinked on and off a worrying number of times, and with one last drawn out keening sound somewhat similar to the shriek of a kettle, died.
Murphy's Law states, in layman's terms, that what can go wrong will go wrong. It should come as no small surprise then that many Creator gods view Murphy as a Right Bastard who should've left well enough alone. After all, nothing is ever created with the express intent of breaking.***
But gods are nothing if not persistent, and took to a tried and true method of dealing with problems of this nature: leave it for someone else to deal with and try again from scratch. So while the gods may hate Murphy and his Law, the Janitors hate him so much more.
Miles McGregor was, in his own humble opinion, woefully unprepared for the current situation.+ Though, when working within the supernatural community with a name as unassuming as that, such is to be expected.
Miles was a Janitor, and had been one for as long as he cared to remember. He recalls his tenure starting after the birth of Creation but before the invention of Gravity. For the most part, however, he had always dealt with issues that were- in the grand scheme of things- rather inconsequential. Sure, that villager would be thankful that a massive pit never opened up beneath their feet for seemingly no reason, but such things were hardly a threat to the system as a whole.
A dead star was completely outside of his field of expertise. With a grimace, Miles plucked up the quarter-sized machine. He gave it a good shake.
He hung his head in defeat when the intricate device remained completely unresponsive.
Miles felt like this was going to be a long night.
He was right. It was the longest night the world had ever known. The Divine Counters- an order of priests that use numbers to seek out ever higher echelons of enlightenment- recorded the night to have lasted four conventional days. Desmond Walk-On-Clouds would tell you that the sun was gone for months.
And both would be correct.
When the sun first disappeared Desmond was worried that the Horizon had done more damage to his person than he initially thought. When that turned out not to be the case he was understandably concerned.
He did not panic, however. Scientists don't panic. Running and screaming were just Desmond's ways of showing concern. And Desmond expressed concern all the way back to Carthus- the Capital City of The Vanishing Desert.++
Carthus was an old city, the sandstone structures found in its Historic District older than most kingdoms. It was also a wealthy city, which lended itself well to being a rather big city. A big city filled to the brim with thinkers and tinkerers and all other kinds of -ers. The Desert's tendency to move from place to place allowed the city to collect brilliant minds from all walks of life and from nearly every corner of the globe, and each one had their own ideas as to how the city should be constructed. The result was a kind of organized chaos- the towering spires of Kenn merging into the squat and solid structures that were the norm in the war-torn country of Goh-Va, and those buildings giving way to the strange, and at times non-euclidean constructions typically found in Sy'thsa. Carthus was simultaneously strange and beautiful, and many people lovingly called it their home.
So you could no doubt imagine their surprise when the sun disappeared.
A merchant ship had been docked at Carthus' port the day that the sun initially vanished. It had, in fact, been docked there for quite a long time; but such are the perils of doing trade with a country capable of teleportation. A pair of sailors- scruffy and covered in scars- stood on its deck, watching with interest as the city suddenly went to chaos. One of them was eating an apple.
"Whaddya think gots them all worked up?" The sailor bereft of any fruit had a tattoo of a Dread Fish+++ on his shoulder and a quizzical expression on his face.
The hungry sailor took a bite of his apple. "Nu croo."
The tattooed sailor gave his friend a disgusted look. "Oh, come on. Don't talk with ya mouth full. Didn't ya ma' teach ya any manners?"
Fruit Eater rolled his eyes and swallowed down his food. "I said,I-"
"Excuse me, gentlemen," The voice was thick in an accent that the sailors didn't recognize, yet for some reason conjured up images of rolling green hills, crystalline lakes, and lucky plants.
The two sailors turned and were met with the sight of a rather peculiarly dressed man. His clothes were the color of empty space- they were so black that they stood out against the sudden night. Each article of clothing was crisp and clean- and despite being simple cloth gave of the impression of being extremely sharp. An elongated diamond shaped piece of fabric of similar quality hung from around his neck. It was red.
"Sorry for intruding like this, but this wouldn't happen to be the city of Carthus would it?" He continued, clasping his hands in front of him with a smile.
"Err- aye. Aye, it is." Tattoo replied, confusion evident in his voice.
"Ah, wonderful, thank you!" The man smiled, nodded to the both of them, and disappeared.
Both sailors stared at where the stranger had been just a moment prior.
Fruit eater spared a glance at his apple before chucking it over the side of the ship.
Desmond had managed to calm down a bit by the time he reached Carthus. Carthus, unfortunately, had not. With all the screaming and running about you'd think the world was ending. He moved through the crowds with an ease that spoke of having next to no experience with traversing through large groups of people. Desmond was jostled, jolted, and in one particular instance, japed. It did not make for a pleasant walk back to The Office.
The building's proper name was 'The Oblong Tower of Arcane Inquiries'- an old relic of construction from the time when wizards still lived in The Vanishing Desert. They left upon realizing that living in a desert wasn't to terribly bright an idea when one's daily attire consisted of dark and heavy robes.
Nothing 'Arcane' happens inside the building anymore, and the only reason it's still called such is because no-one really cares enough to have the name changed. Everyone who works there simply calls it 'The Office'- not only does it sound more professional, it's also much easier to use in casual conversation.
Desmond walked up, opened the front door, and walked inside.
He ended up somewhere else entirely. More specifically, a rather diminutive room. Its coloration was striking in the way that only complete lack of color can achieve. There was a desk- or perhaps a table- which carried on its surface a number of tools that were rather esoteric in appearance. Glass jars containing strange liquids stood proudly on lopsided shelves.
Desmond took a breath and noted that the area smelled distinctly of disinfectant.
For some reason he couldn't shake the thought that he was standing in a closet.
'This is most certainly not The Office,' thought Desmond, beginning to feel concerned.
It was around this time that he felt something tap him on the shoulder.
Miles hadn't been aware that people were capable of jumping so high, or able to make such peculiar noises.
"Gaah!" Truly, what a strange sound. "Who are you?! Where are we?! Where did the door go?!"
Nor was he aware that they could speak so quickly.
The man standing in front of Miles was of exceptionally average height. He was wrapped in layers of tan cloth, the material hanging loosely from his thin frame. Almost like someone gave up halfway through wrapping a mummy. A dark blue sash hung around his hips, marking him as a member of The Sun Worshipers- the Royal Scientists of Carthus.
He also looked like he was about to faint.
Miles held up his hands in a placating gesture. "Alright, alright, calm down. I'll answer all your questions, but first I'm going to need you to take some deep breaths and listen to what I have to say."
Miles didn't have any special powers that can affect the mind. But then again, he didn't need them. Miles McGregor was 'charismatic'. Desmond, after some hesitation, nodded- taking in some much needed oxygen as he did so.
"Good man, good man." Miles said sympathetically, patting the wheezing scientist on the back good naturedly. To Miles' surprise that actually seemed to help.
"Are you ready to listen?" Miles asked.
Miles smiled. "Great. Now here's the thing..."
The Universe is a big place, but that goes without saying. It's also rather well made- even with Murphy going around and fiddling with everything its parts don't break often. Or, rather, they shouldn't.
Within the unfathomable expanse of creation, a star flickered- and with a noise like the shrill screech of a tea kettle it died.
Ellio adjusted his tie- a gaudy green monstrosity that only the blind would find appealing- and smiled. It was a smile full of teeth and empty of kindness of any sort. If sharks could grin they would grin like Ellio. He just couldn't help himself- there was nothing like a job well done after all. He took a single step and travelled several thousand miles. He reached out his hand and it came back holding a gear the size of a gnat.
A star flickered, wailed, and died.
*The Vanishing Desert's name does not come from, as one might suspect, a slow but noticeable decrease in size, but rather for the fact that it- due to some slight differences between the world's natural magical field and the one generated by the desert itself- tends to jump from place to place quite often.
**A term originally coined by foreigners used to describe the risks of attempting to cross the Vanishing Desert during the day. To those who live there, it is a very insulting phrase.
***The Pinto is the only exception to this rule.****
****The Pinto is, for reasons unfathomable, a universal constant.
+An opinion that is widely shared by many of his colleagues in regards to Miles McGregor in a more holistic fashion.
++By virtue of being the only city in The Vanishing Desert.
+++The Dread Fish is approximately seven feet long, and covered in sharp barbs. Despite its imposing name and fearsome appearance, the Dread Fish is- in a humorous twist of evolution- terrified of everything.