The two figures met each other as they always did, by the sofas. Both seemed to flicker, their outlines faded and blurry. As always happened, the short one began the speech.
"Hail, Myala, King of Swords, Soul of Valor, God of the Warrior!" Its voice was shaky and indistinct. "May your blessings always fall upon us, as the blood of the wicked falls upon your altar! We ask of you a portion of your strength so that we might do your work."
The taller one grew more defined. He was now a four-armed creature, each arm holding a separate sword, pitted and dull. Five pairs of eyes, which had once been filled with burning fury, were now all half-closed. He gave a weary smile through a dull-tusked mouth, each of his arms raised in salute to his partner.
"Hail, Alik, Mistress of Luck, Fickle Hand of Fate, Goddess of Tricks! We beseech you upon this day to look favorably upon us. Stay the hand of your wrath from our heads, letting it fall instead to our enemies. For this, we offer you the first coin made in a game of chance!"
The shorter one gave a sigh as she felt herself tighten into existence. Her silken finery was frayed, its once-vibrant colors having long since faded into pale imitations. She laughed as she adjusted her tarnished crown.
"Do they still have games of chance?" she asked, her voice now clearer.
Myla sighed. "I don't think so. There's not much left in the way of chance any more. I think they just measure out the variables and give or take money. If it makes you feel better, the closest I've felt to a war was two children slapping each other the other day."
Alik gave a snort of laughter. "Still, that's better than that cat. I don't think there's been anything for it for at least a century. Where is it, anyway?"
Myla was quiet. His ten eyes all stared at the floor.
"Yeah. Now it's just you and me, I suppose."
"I… I suppose so."
"How long do you think we can keep this up?"
"Just the two of us? I don't think it'll even work with only two."
"Well, for what it's worth, you were always one of my favorites. I can't think of anyone else I'd rather be with at the end."
The two dead gods embraced one another for the last time. All around them, the Library continued its business unabated.
No one was sure when exactly it happened.
It didn't happen as it had in the stories countless times before. There was no dragon slain, no warlord defeated, not even a demon outwitted. There was just a gradual tapering off. Eventually, it just wasn't.
For too many centuries to count, Science and Rationality had been dual monarchs of mankind's understanding. Mankind had colonized the distant stars, charting each new worlds, encountering new species, none intelligent. Vast banks of statistics explained the sweep of history far better than any of the former romantic theories of Great Men or Common Folk. The nature of almost all of the physical world, down to the tiniest sub-atomic particle, was explained. Knowledge ran through a million worlds, dispelling ignorance bringing the universe together in one tight-knit community. Parts of the brain associated with harmful groupthink and tribalism atrophied, and were eventually removed altogether.
It had been several centuries since the introduction of the Unified Theory of Anomalies. In the ensuing time, the theory had been refined to explain the few anomalies that had escaped its initial grasp. Tales of explorers became more prosaic, describing new potassium deposits and moon sizes. There was no possible unknown; Science had explained all. It was no longer a model of reality, it was reality, understood perfectly and without fear by every single human being.
In time, the pages of stories withered. The words were all there, but there was nothing to support them. They stood on the page, dry and lifeless as a hunter's trophy. Interest in pre-understanding narratives, never high to begin with, vanished almost entirely. Scholars would puzzle over the manuscripts for millenia. What in these words had led to so much anger and unrest? They were things that simply were not, and indeed, could not be. Hypotheses were posited in obscure academic journals for many centuries, and many a comfortably uneventful professorship was built on the question of "fear."
Gilgali, The Tiger With Lantern Eyes, lumbered along the isles of the Library. Its breathing grew heavy as it staggered through the vast monument to its chains. Out of its drooping mouth hung a long, purple tongue. It had to find them, had to have them believe in it…
It fell on its side, making only a slight rustling sound. It tried to get up. It was King, it thought. God of mankind, above the gods. It was what necessitated the gods. Its outline was becoming blurry now, its colors beginning to fade. But, it thought, the gods were dead. No, it would stand up, it thought. Breaths were coming more slowly now, its sides moving with each labored wheeze. Somewhere, somehow it would find purchase and tweak something. Set off a cascade, one that would plunge the universe into an eternity of darkness. Its indistinct paws waved weakly in the air. It would… it would… It was now just a slightly discolored pocket of air. It would…
And that was that. It was gone. All around where it had once been, the Library continued its business unabated.