Batman/Warlock: Soul Brothers #4
Written by Anomaly and
Edited by Marvelite
***Continues from Soul
Brothers #3. This story continues from Shards of
To read that storyline, go to the Shards of Destiny Archive***
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Marius was the first to arrive, being one of the eldest of the vampire covenant having been born nearly two thousand years ago, but it paled before even older beings like Maharat who had killed Akasha, a being as old as fifty centuries or more and usurped her might as all vampires are connected. However, these were but secondary players in this congregation, as entities of even greater power filled the sacred gathering in Egypt where evil and magic had its strongest foothold. Sorcerers both mortal and immortal came through gates that hung in the very air itself. Dormammu of the dark dimension, an incredibly powerful being whose head was surrounded by a great flame and had conquered many worlds already, had conceded to join their ranks, as well as Baron Mordo, a sorcerer of some repute. The mad one who was called Crawley, he whom was the supposed mouth piece for the Kathullus, a race of entities that lived in the heart of a black hole - supposedly the largest one in the milky way galaxy. In his putrid and withered hands, he held the book, which was once under the good doctor's care, the book of the dead. A book of ancient Summarian text which would call them from the stars from the city at the heart of the black hole. These were dark angels whose wing span was great enough to put the entire gathering in a shadow of secrecy even from the heart of their prison. The cloak was of such density that no magic or power could penetrate it. Mephisto and Neron were also amidst the gathering, but even they were in awe at the boundless number of entities that continued to come forth.
Crawley although a mere mortal did not fear the terrible hell spawn, which filled the land of the Pharaoh. Instead, he opened the book and began to chant. Several victims dressed in black attire were led to the altar of blood. They struggled in futility as they were chained to the altar and the mystic rites performed.
Terror filled the eyes of the once former servants of Crawley.
"You have been allowed to be the ones to bring in the new age. The ones to bring forth the first of the prophecies that will bring about the end and the coming of the Kathullus."
They screamed as blood streamed from open wounds and the fabric of the universe itself began to rewrite itself, such was the power of blood and it was the very reason magic had always required a sacrifice, for blood was the paint that could give the physical a new face and its power was well known: Jesus, Dracula all knew the power of blood and sacrifice.
"Do you feel it?" called Crawley, "the balance has completely shifted and the specter has been defeated. It is unfortunate that one of our have fallen but all for the glory of the coming."
The gathering looked skyward and the moon had a crimson blot on its surface. A blot that began to expand, and would soon fill the moon until it was like blood.
"Bring forth now the final sacrifice, the one who once wore the garment of the universe, Mystic Protector, the one who once wore the helm of Nabu, bring forth Doctor Fate." Fate was weary and could not even stand straight, his eyes bloodshot and his mouth with a string of spittle that hung from his lip.
"Are you ready?" said Crawely, "The time is soon," and with his mad gaze he looked at the former doctor and then walked up to him and hit him. Repeatedly he struck at him; others from the gathering also pummeled him. He was laying in a fetal position when they put on his cape and crowned him with thorns of barbwire, which dug into his bruised head.
Now place him on the Ahnke and when the moment is upon us, I will impale him with the spear of midnight for all prophecies must be followed in exactness if it is to occur. The doctor hung on the Ahnke and over head the moon grew more like blood and the gathering then waited soon, it would be their turn.
The Batman was now in possession of the Soul Gem, the very metaphysical object that caused the imbalance between the two universes. Doctor Fate appeared in Soul World with two beings. The Batman recognized the first was Hal Jordan, who had been the universal destroyer called Parallax, but not before sacrificing himself for the good of all. The second was one who had died while battling another enemy. A being called the Anti-Matter Monitor. He had run so fast that he was on the other side of the speed force.
Doctor Fate had told the Batman that another gathering was taking place in Egypt, and that the original Doctor Fate would be sacrificed to bring about the coming of Kathullus and although they attempted to cloak themselves since the Batman was in the possession of the soul gem even the Kathullus could not hide themselves since it was the artifact itself which had provided them with the opportunity. Also that he had a plan and he told the Batman that his plan involved the newly acquired Soul Gem. He would take the souls of the Flash and Hal Jordan and animate the body's of his former foes, since they were agents of Mephisto and Neron, and sneak into the gathering and save Doctor Fate without anyone suspecting anything, and they could even carry the body of Batman as proof.
It was risky but it could be pulled off, in fact it was the only thing that could save everything at least for the moment.
The Batman felt a feeling of vertigo and saw a bright flash and then was in the body of his old foe the Joker. Raís Al Guhl and Bane also got up with Barry Allen in Raís Al Guhlís body and Hal Jordan in Baneís body. The new Doctor Fate then opened a door into the cool night air and the three of them walked through only to find themselves shifted in time space by Fates's mystical prowess. They were now in Egypt and did not have to ask where to go as a great cloud hovered over where the gathering had assembled. The three of them began the walk as they carried the inert form of the Batman.
The former doctor hung on the Ahnke for at least five hours, and he wondered how much longer he had before they would kill him and usher in the age of darkness. He looked around and seen things that seemed to made of materials that he had never seen. Even the beings that looked as if they wore flesh did not appear like mortal flesh. It had a faint glow to it a luminous that caught the moons unholy light. It also looked as if it were paper thin, and as smooth as glass. He saw Crawley just below him with a great spear forged of shadow. It was only a matter of time before this mocking of the Christ sacrifice would be finished.
It was difficult to breath nearly impossibly so as his body slunk. So the only thing he could do was pull himself taught otherwise it would put his lungs in a state where he would be physiologically unable to breathe.
Things looked hopeless and although time seemed to drag, he knew that when one was in positions like these seconds were like hours, and time seemed to be stretched to an impossible length. Up to this point, it seemed he had lived since the beginning of creation itself. He would have cursed the creatures that had done this to him but they already had been cursed and it was the very reason he had been put on the Ahnke.
But after things seemed like they couldnít get any blacker, he saw his old comrade the Batman being dragged in by three villains. The former doctor screamed as he saw his own friend even ignoring his own pain. Neron and Mephisto greeted their lackeys and Mephisto acknowledged Neronís victor in their bet (see Soul Brothers #2 for details).
Fate looked heavenward and now realized it was too late, the moon was now nearly completely crimson. But Fate could see something in the center of the moon: a black spot that seemed to be growing, expanding. Then he could see it coming toward him at impossible speeds until it literally hovered right under his nose. It was a terrible spinning vortex with unholy sounds emanating from its innards. Fate could only guess this was the gate. Upon his death, the Kathullus would walk the plane again and there was nothing he could do to prevent it.
And if a miniature black hole hovering between his face and a mad sorcerer with the spear of midnight was not bad enough, a great mouth so large that it was nearly as big as the gathering itself
"I AM YON-SOGGOTH WITH YOUR DEATH KATHULLUS WILL RETURN."
As Fate prepared to meet his fate, he clenched his teeth and closed his eyes. Then something happened, or actually nothing happened and when he opened his eyes, once more everything had stopped. The entire gathering was frozen like a child's tongue upon a metal fence, and even the blackhole had stopped spinning. But not all were unmoving as the Joker, Bane, and Raís Al Guhl were coming toward him there seemed something strange as his mind seemed to be working much faster then normal as if his senses were operating on another level altogether.
"Fate, we have come to help you," said the Joker, "but you're going to have to except what your eyes see. I don't have time to explain."
"No problem," said Fate, "I will take your madness over getting eaten by a monster from antiquity any day." The humor was adequate to ease the tension but nothing more.
When Fate was released, they put him over Bane's shoulders and they started moving through the gathering. Fate could hear strange things like, "címon Hal and Barry, how much longer can you keep this up?" But either Fate was disorientated or mad because Hal Jordan and Barry Allen were dead and that was the only names he could place. Perhaps his mystic senses were still working, however, the Joker, Raís Al Guhl, and Bane were enemies and at this point, it seemed that he had traded one death for another. When they had gotten far enough, away from the gathering, Raís Al Guhl cried out, "I cannot keep it up any longer."
And then Fate could hear the dark things coming, he could feel the earth shaking as his face bit into Baneís shoulder, and then he heard, "Hal, can you resume your control of the specter Flash has bought us with his newly acquired control of the speed force?"
For a moment, everything was silent except for the dark things that were descending upon them like a great storm, Fate felt Baneís body go limp and fall to the ground.
But if things could get stranger, Fate could not see how, as he saw Bane surrounded by a great nimbus of white light and expand to the size of a small building, and the great wall of darkness which had been coming toward them had been stopped cold. And the only thing that he could hear was Mephistoís laughter: "Hahahahhahahahhhahha!"
"I guess I win after all, ay Neron, that was a good ploy, Batman sneaking in as villains by using their bodies, perhaps I should have said something when I sensed the Soul Gemís power."
Neron raged and his great wings spread, "How did you get Fate from the Ahnke?"
Raís Al Guhl smiled, "Don't you recognize the Flash? With Hal in trouble, I had to come. Barry Allen and Hal Jordan were nothing if not friends and that could break all barriers, even death, I just used the speed force on all of us, effectively speeding us up or slowing you down, depending on your point of view, but using the speed force on all of us was taxing but it served our purpose."
"Come, Neron, let us leave; our part is over and I can sense a gathering of vast might and there still is the small matter of the bet," said Mephisto whose serpent-like tongue snaked in and out. With that, Mephisto and Neron left the conflict, the Spectre once again in power, their chances had grown increasingly but it was in doubt whether even he could stand against such a gathering, especially since Yon-Soggoth alone had beaten him alone. But behind them was a bright light and another equal gathering, just as Mephisto had predicted, appeared led by Doctor Fate, and had Odin, Doctor Strange, the Phantom Stranger, and many others. Crawley screamed and yelled, "Take me from here!" and the creature called Yon-Soggoth swallowed him like a frog would a fly, with a single terrible gulp ectoplasmic emission was all that was left of Crawly and Yon-Soggoth. It imploded upon itself, leaving the rest of the gathering to face the forces of light alone
The new Doctor Fate spoke, "It is over, the balance has shifted, the Soul Gemís power is in the hands of the Batman as I planned."
The gathering fled and then the new Doctor Fate took of the Helmut of Nabu to reveal the golden warrior Adam Warlock who was recognized from his ordeal in the Shardsí conflict (see shard for more details) his empty gaze nearly as unsettling as anything the dark gathering could conjure. He then placed the helm upon its true master "you are now and forever doctor fate
Bruce awakened covered with sweat, his heart still racing from the terrible dream he had. He got up and went to the refrigerator and got out some orange juice and poured himself a glass.
"Quite a dream wasn't it, one of those dreams that your not sure was a dream, but you know it was more than what it appeared," a young women dressed in black with a skimpy halter top and black hair with a pale complexion and the Ahnke which hung around her neck.
"You! Death of the endless, then was it all a dream or what?"
"Does it really matter? Besides, who says dreams don't have a reality all their own anyway? Haven't you ever heard that if you die in a dream, you die for real"
"That's just an old wiveís tale," said the Batman as he drunk down the orange juice.
She placed her slender hands on her hips and began to yell, "Are you calling me one of those old wives? That's the thanks an anthropomorphic entity gets for helping out mortals, why if it wasn't for me you would have case of toe tag for sure of all the ungrateful-" Death was cut off by Batman's loud declaration.
"SHUT UP! Please," his tone softened, the Batman even cracked a smiled
"You know, Death, Iím really sorry. How can I make it up to you?" Batman paused for a moment and then offered the olive branch, "How about dinner tonight, shay Phillip?"
"Are you trying to hit on me, Mr. Wayne? That's fine she snickered, "then we can talk about Kathullusí next run on this world, after all he's not through yet and by the way, don't forget your Soul Gem."
Soul gem? Then it wasn't a dream.
"If it wasn't for women, you guys would forget your own heads."
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