Standing, he conjured two great portals in space. Both opaque, the one to the All-Father's right quickly shimmered, revealing a realm of fire and molten stone. The other remained clouded, waiting silently until he had need of it.
"Odin," a fierce voice boomed from the fiery depths, its speaker remaining unseen, "what reason do you have for contacting me? We have no reason to speak, Sky-Father, until the day of Ragnarok."
"You know very well why I have contacted you this day, Fire Demon. Ragnarok may well be upon us, but I have no wish to accept it with open arms. You may have doomed all of Asgard with your childishness."
Rumbling laughter, "Oh? What have I done this day, All-Father?"
"You have resisted me, not a wise decison in light of the crisis we face. In order for Asgard and all the Nine Worlds to survive, we must be united as one."
"United in you, Odin. I will not tolerate such a situation. My Fire Demons and I will remain separate of you and your wretched Asgardian lot."
"E'en Hela and Karnilla have become one with me, Surtur! How can you stand by when all of reality lies on the edge of the destruction?"
The giant's flaming head slowly came into view, piercing yellow eyes meeting Odin's directly, "Because I do not care."
"Then you are a fool, Fire Demon. Thanos of Titan seeks to destroy us all, even you. You felt the disruption of reality signalling his ascension. You, Surtur, will not be spared his wrath when he one day comes to the Nine Worlds proper. Muspelheim will fall, and you will die, unable to fulfill Prophecy and set the Nine Worlds aflame on the day of Ragnarok. You will be a failure two times over."
The Fire Giant's eyes narrowed, considering the Asgardian's words. With obvious reluctance, he said, "I will fight for the Nine Worlds, against the one called Thanos. I will join with my Fire Demons and meet at the appointed place. But I will destroy the Nine Worlds during the Twilight of the Gods, Odin. No force in all reality can halt Prophecy."
Odin nodded his heavily maned head, "Good, Fire Demon. Join with your demonic brethern and prepare for the battle ahead. It may well be one we cannot win."
Surtur scoffed, a loud thunderclap, and the portal into Muspelheim winked out, leaving the remaining tear in space shimmering away at Odin's left. The All-Father turned toward it, and slowly it cleared, revealing a frozen mountain keep, sheets of ice permanently encrusted over age-old black stone. A harsh wind howled violently, the only sound for what seemed like hours. Finally, Odin spoke, "Ymir, I call upon thee to speak!" His mighty voice echoed several times before fading off into nothingness.
"What do you want, Lord of Asgard?" a voice responded, jagged ice scraping on stone.
"You have not joined with me in divine union to save the Nine Worlds from Thanos of Titan. Why have you done this, Frost Giant?"
A quick movement and the being's huge, craggy head was dominating the viewing portal, "We are enemies, Odin. I will not join with you, nor will my Frost Giants."
"All the Nine Worlds are at stake, Ymir! Thanos will not stop at Midgard. One day he will come to Asgard, and once he is done trampling my golden realm he will come to Niflheim, and you and your children will fiery deaths. Strike now, while we all have a chance!"
The giant said nothing for several moments as he considered the Asgardian's words. As if the words were being forcefully torn from his being, he answered, "I have felt the disruption, and sense that you speak the truth, my foe. For this one time I will put aside our differences and fight for the Nine Worlds alongside you. But then you will die, Odin, at my hands and Asgard will fall into an age of ice that will never end." The portal disappeared before Odin could respond. Sighing loudly he, fell back into his throne, the battle he had had with Thanos still weighing heavily on his mind, though his body had already recovered. This time he would be victorious, or he would die. There was no other option. Silence reigned in the chamber as Odin considered his role in the coming battle.
"Odin!" a voice shouted suddenly, cutting through the quiet and knocking the All-Father out of his reverie, "Have you completed your tasks?"
Looking down the long stairs leading up to Hlidskjalf, he identified the speaker. Vishnu, head god of the Hindu pantheon. At his side the Sky-Father recognized Ra of the Egyptians, Zeus of the Greeks, Jove of the Romans, and Tinia of the Etruscans. Zeus eyed him warily but the others seemed to habor no grudge against the Norseman. Odin spoke, finally, "Yes, Vishnu, I have joined with nearly all the inhabitants of the Nine Worlds, save those in Midgard, Muspelheim, and Niflheim. But Surtur and Ymir will fight will fight for the multiverse, when the day comes."
With a satisfied look, Vishnu replied, "Good, we have done the same. Now, come, follow us, and take your place with your fellow Sky-Fathers."
Nodding his head, the head of the Norse pantheon stood and descended the long stairs. Taking his place at Vishnu's side, the Hindu god opened a large portal and stepped through. With just a hint of trepidation, Odin glanced at the other gods assembled around him. They returned his glances, revealing no emotion. He stepped through, then, into what was without question the most awe-inspiring scene he had ever beheld in his long lifespan.
"Is everything ready?" Loki asked, looking around the huge storeroom stockpiled with all types of weapons, mechanical, mystical, spiritual, along with other devices he could not even hazard a guess at. Separated into three distinct divisions, his rock trolls, Annihilus' insectoid warriors, and Blaastar's bulky troops grumbled and murmured with impatience. He shared their feelings, but was far too adept at controlling his emotions to reveal such discomfort.
"Yes." the Collector responded simply, his eyes and mouth a blaze of cosmic energy, "Are your forces prepared?"
"The rock trolls stand ready for the battle ahead." Ulik announced in a basso rumble before Loki could respond.
"Good..." the Elder turned to look at the denizens of the Negative Zone, Blaastar and Annhilus. The burning orifices that passed for his eyes asked the question for him. Both nodded slowly. He spoke, "Then it is time. Remote probes have pinpointed Thanos' location. Activate your teleportation units, but do not cut through the spatial barrier completely, just enough to tear through the remaining fabric to reach the Titan. He can be given no warning."
His four accomplices listened carefully, then pressed the grey mechanical pads affixed to their chests. Pinpricks appeared in the air before them and quickly grew to the raging storms of incomplete teleportation passageways. Ulik, unable to fathom his device, was forced to ask Loki for assisstance in forming his gateway. Soon, four tears in space stood haphazardly in the Collector's weapon bay.
Looking the scene over, the Elder seemed to approve, "The time is upon us. Check your weapons a final time. The Titan is a brutal opponent and any mistake on your part will cause your death along with the death of many of your comrades." He watched as the soldiers from the Negative Zone looked over their energy weapons, pulse rifles, nova launchers, flechette launchers, vibro-axes, and electified knives. Still wielding their clubs and staffs, the trolls did bother. When the din of activity had quieted once again, the Collector spoke, "It is time." He raised his arm, "To us all, victory!" A similar shout rolled over the chamber a moment later. Satisfied, he looked over the nearest rock trolls for a final time and promptly incinerated them with a sweeping blast of cosmic fire from his eyes.
The Elder's victims screamed as their flesh burned off their bones and they crumbled to the ground in flaming heaps. A second attack sent a portion of Blaastar's men skidding across the chamber.
"Elder! What are you doing!?" Loki screached, dodging thick blasts of energy as the Collector began firing erratically into the ground. A mystic force attack seamed to have no effect on his massive form.
"Teaching you all the folly of trying to usurp the power of Thanos of Titan." the Collector responded as pulse blasts slammed harmlessly into his form.
"Thanos? What?" Loki said confusedly as an arcing blast of energy sent him careening into an energy portal. He screamed once, and was gone.
"He's a traitor!" Blaastar shouted above the screams and shouts, "Kill him!" With a snarl he charged at the Elder, firing energy bursts from his hands the entire time.
"No, not a traitor," a voice that was no longer the Collector's boomed across the chamber, loud enough for all to hear. He struck mechanically as he spoke, "a pawn. The Elder asked for godlike power, and I gave it to him." The Living Bomburst slammed into him, trying to drag the Elder down by the waist, "He never stipulated that I, Thanos, could not possess his form or watch events through his eyes in exchange for this great gift."
The Collector grabbed Blaastar's thick mane of black hair as he finished speaking and yanked his skull backward so he could look into fuming eyes. The automaton smiled as those deep caverns glowed hot and fired into his foe's grey face. The Bomburst screamed in agony and was flung back into the mass of flaming chaos. Wild energy blasts fired, missing the Elder more often than not as he began to float above the panic, raining fire down upon them.
"Your power will be mine!" Annihilus shouted as his huge leather wings carried him toward the Collector's form, a golden beam streaking from the Cosmic Control Rod under his neck. The Collector deflected it with an upraised hand before tearing a steaming hole in the insect's wing with a blast of energy.
Screaming, Annihilus got off enough attack with the long studded staff he held before crashing to the ground in a smoking heap. No longer a threat, the Collector returned to turning the assorted soldiers into ash, leaving their leaders alive. It appeared the Elder still had some, albeit minute, say in his own actions after all.
Dazed, the Living Death that Walks slowly got to his feet, using the staff for leverage and opened a hole in space with a blast from the Control Rod. There was a collective shout as others ran to enter it. Only Ulik made it through before Annihilus closed the gateway behind him, the screams of agony, terror, and hate fading into what surely would be memories he, nor Ulik, would ever forget.
Space tore like tissue paper as Loki crashed through time and space to land heavily on a smooth black and purple floor. He slowly pulled himself to his feet, shaking off the effects of his hard landing. Surveying the large chamber, he froze like a frightened animal when he saw the figure sitting on a far-off throne, behind a stream of water cascading from the ceiling. His body charge with mystic energy.
"What brings you to my domain, Trickster?" Thanos said calmly, a curious smile painted his rocky face.
"I...ah...I was planning to..." Loki stammered, "...help you in your quest to destroy earth's heroes."
"It is not wise to lie to one who can see the future and the past, Asgardian." Thanos' eyes lit like silver candles.
"Wha, what do you mean?" Loki said, taking several quick steps backward. The Titan rose with unbelievable speed from his perch, fist outheld. The God of Evil screamed in vain as that huge hand lit with power, but he was sent careening across the chamber, a burning wound in his shoulder, before the twisted shout had left his mouth.
He smashed into a rounded wall and fell to the ground with a dull thud, smoke still rising from his injury. It was several moments before his eyes fluttered open, a moan of pain escaping his curled lips before he could stop it. A dark shadow loomed over his downed form.
The mischief maker wobbled to his feet, opposite hand clutching his charred shoulder. Dazed eyes looked at Thanos through a fog of agony. They turned to feral rage in a split second, hand whipping around to fire a bolt of mystic energy at the Titan.
It shattered harmlessly on the Eternal's purple face. The counterstrike, a viscious backhand, snapped Loki's head violently to the side with a distinct crack. His limp form travelled with the momentum of the blow into the wall. His body slid to the floor and was still.
The Asgardian's corpse disappeared in a flash of light as Thanos strode back to his throne and sat. He stroked his chin, and waited for what would be the first surprise he had had since the Equation bestowed limited prescience upon him. A "chronal blindspot," the Titan called it. A span of time which he could not look into and see what was to occur. The future afterward was hazy, difficult to see. Whatever happened within the blindspot would determine events yet to come.
The entire vessel screeched and rocked violently suddenly as time moved into the "blindspot." The entire left half of Thanos' chamber collapsed, cold vacuum rushing in. A titanic blast of cosmic energy obliterated his throne nanoseconds before the Titan teleported away, sensing the disturbance in reality before it manifested itself.
Rematerialzing on the top of his shattered craft, standing in one of the few flat areas, Thanos surveyed the three cosmic giants who had assaulted him mere moments ago, "Ashema the Listener, Scathan the Approver, Ishius the Overseer," he addressed each of the Celestials separately, his words cutting across space, "you have made a grave mistake this day. Attempting to wrest the Infinity Equation from me will only bring you destruction."
Scathan raised a massive emerald hand and fired, as if Thanos had said nothing. Metal and stone spires shattered around the Titan, but the huge shards did not touch him. His eyes flashed crimson as he raised his hand and fired a blast of cosmic force half a mile wide at his foe.
The Approver's torso went up in a cloud of black smoke. Its legs collapsed, falling limply into space, nothing left to animate them. Ishius and Ashema struck back, firing dual blasts at Thanos.
The Eternal actually staggered backward a step, taken aback by the assault. Quickly recovering, he clenched his fist and soon he was looking both of the Celestials in the eye. Standing a mile tall, he backhanded Ashema, knocking a good portion of its facial armor off into space in ragged chunks. A second later, thick beams of power fired from Thanos' eyes ripped massive hole's in the Celestial's chest. All animation fled from its form and the great armored body began to float listlessly in space.
A huge armored fist slammed into the back of the Titan's head and he was sent reeling forward several steps before turning and unleashing another onslaught, this time reducing Ishius' right arm to cosmic dust.
"Did I not see you destroyed during the attack on your World Sphere?" Thanos asked the silent giant as he blocked the Overseer's next blow, sending a torrent of power off into space. He smashed his silver fist into the Celestial's "face" and continued, "Yes, I did. But it seems that your Hyperspatial bodies are capable of inhabiting more than one suit of armor at a time. Fascinating." His metal-clad fingers dug deeply into Ishius' skull, tearing through to the armor's interior. Thanos' eyes glowed deeply as he crushed the Celestial's central processing unit.
The Eternal was blown backward by the huge explosion as Ishius' red form exploded, spraying pieces of armor for several hundred miles around. Quickly righting himself, Thanos surveyed the carnage with satisfaction. The Equation's power was growing quickly. He now estimated that by the time he reached earth, true omnipotence would be just starting rear its head. Omniscience would be much farther off, he knew, though.
With a flick of his wrist, the floating debris reformed itself to the Titan's will. The pieces of cosmicly tempered steel warped into long spires and their colors changed to black, purple, and silver. They sped toward the demolished vessel, already reincorporating and merged with it. Soon, Thanos' chariot was far larger than it had been before.
With a flash, the Titan was sitting in his undisturbed chamber, listening to the gentle sound of the small waterfall pour into the basin below. The ship leaped back to its former speed and course and Thanos sat back in his chair, immersing himself in the power and knowledge flowing through him. The midnight highway of the future stretched out before him once again.
"By Yggdrasil, I have never seen such a sight!" Odin said as he stepped onto the granite platform. He did not notice the rush of noise as the portal closed behind him.
"It is quite a sight, isn't it?" Vishnu agreed, "A shame it can only be seen under such dire circumstances.
Indeed it was a scene to behold. Odin and his fellow Sky Fathers stood atop a great chunk of granite floating in an eternal sea of white that streched as far as their eyes could see. Other beings crowded onto similar platforms, but there were not the focus of the All-Father's awe. It was the huge assortment of beings before him that nearly made the old god nearly avert his eyes, so grand was it.
Thousands of cosmic entity floated in the eternal sea, so many that Odin could not identify them all as they changed positions so quickly. There was Anomaly to the side of Kronos, Titan God of Time. Mistress Love and Master Hate were nearby, standing beside the Stranger and several Celestials, one of which the All-Father identified as Scathan the Approver. Epoch conversed with the bloated form of Ego, the Living Planet while Blackheart tried to ignore the rantings of his displaced father Mephisto. A squadron of several thousand angelic beings flew by, obscuring Odin's view of the main body of the Celestials, which he estimated numbered in the millions. The great armored beings stood aloof, arms folded across their chests. Behind them was the dwarfing form of Dyriad the Ravager, and even above him the One Above All, master of all Celestials.
And the scene went on and on. Lord Chaos and Master Order floated in their eternal arrangement, speaking to the In-Betweener, who had been freed, if only to fight in the battle ahead. The bright light of what could only have been the Phoenix burned somewhere in the distance, obscured by the forms of the Unbeing, Orikal, Abadon, and Origin, now in her true form. Sorrow glided by what were surely several million beings who could only be Beyonders. All the assembled beings did their best to ignore the Hawk God, who floated in a great bubble of cosmic tension, their dislike of him very obvious. Millions of Watchers milled around their great god while Khatylis the Planet Maker played with an orb of golden energy. Entire races could be glimpsed in their entirety, and Odin looked upon the Deathwings, Critics, Time Twisters, the Absolutes, and Karandas with curiousity. He caught glimpses of others, if only for a moment, but his gaze was drawn too quickly to other wonders to pursue the aberrations.
Then were those creatures he did not recognize, those he doubted he had ever even heard of before. Hundreds of divine bars of white light surrounded by emerald swirls. A great crystalline structure that moved with ease. Three huge blue dragons each intertwined with a golden wheel. A metallic being seeminly made of silver razorblades with multifaceted crimson eyes. An armored stellar giant, taller than nearly all the others with five stars orbiting his massive head. What could only be a massive silver worm with a maw so wide he guessed it could encompass an entire planet. So many he could not have even guessed at their numbers. Entire races that had remained unknown to him for all his great lifespan.
At the center of the great crowd stood three beings taller than all others, signifying their position. Death, Galactus, and Eternity were aloof to the lot of them, as far above the great assembly of entities as they were above Odin and his fellow Sky-Fathers. They conversed, surely, but Odin could not catch a single hint of what they were saying, nor did he even try. Such words were not meant for his ears.
"More will be arriving soon." Vishnu said quietly to the All-Father.
Odin blinked his eyes several times, as if he'd just awoke from some magnificent dream. He turned to the Hindu god, "More?" he said with astonishment, "There are entire races of beings out there, some I have never laid eyes upon nor heard of in all my long years of life! How can there be more..."
"There are, All-Father, there are. I have heard from a Watcher that every cosmic being in this reality, along with those from all the numerous dimensions attached to it, will be participating in the battle." Vishnu replied, obviously quite impressed himself.
"That is quite correct, brother Vishnu." said a figure as he floated down to stand next to his fellow Sky-Fathers. His body seemed to be carved from the most pure jade, his face all panes and angles. Black robes floated around his body as if he were constantly in the middle of a fierce windstorm, "Every Sky-Father, every cosmic being, every cosmic race will be involved in the battle ahead."
"Yu-Huang!" Odin exclaimed, speaking warmly to the head of the Chinese pantheon, "It has been so many years!"
"Indeed it has." the Jade Emperor responded, "Many of our brothers have already arrived, in fact. Perhaps it is time to meet them?"
Odin nodded, "Yes, I would enjoy that immensely. It has been such a long time since I saw all of my fellow Sky-Fathers."
"The crisis has brought us all together." Yu Huang said, beginning to walk toward a large grouping of people standing on the far end of the gigantic stone slab, "Even the San-quing, Yuan-shi-tian-zong has left the Heaven of Jade Purity to fight in the upcoming battle." He motioned a huge form floating far off in the distance. The great dragon appeared to be carved out of jade as well, whiskers of gold shooting from his face. His ten-mile long, snake-like form drifted slightly in the cosmic winds as he spoke to the being Odin recognized as Numinus, albeit it in her true, divine form.
"A pity it takes such a villain as Thanos threatening the multiverse to bring us all together." the All-Father said, walking side-by-side with the Jade Emperor.
"Indeed it is..." Yu-Huang said with sadness, "Even those who decided not to join with their respective Sky Fathers in holy union are here as well. I truly have never experienced such a gathering."
"Aye, Surtur and Ymir have decided to battle apart from me as well. And recognize your Monkey King along with Gyges, Cottus, and Briareus, the Hecatonchires. I'm sure there are many more here that I cannot even discern from the crowd."
"True, there are others, such as Balor of the Fomorians and Angra Mainyu." Huang added as they grew closer to the cluster of figures, "But let us speak no more of war and betrayers. Let us rejoice in the small amount of time we have together and recall better times, Odin."
"I agree wholeheartedly, Lord Huang." the All-Father said as they came up to the backs of the nearest speakers. They turned at the same time to see who was behind them, their conversation stopping abruptly.
"Ah, good Odin! How nice to see you after all this time!" Oberon, king of the faeries said, his yellow wolf-eyes lighting up with recognition. His pale blue lips curled back in a smile, revealing perfectly white teeth. The king was dressed in red and gold armor, a distinct contrast to his pale blue skin and slick white hair.
"What a horrible set of circumstances bring us together though, eh, All-Father?" asked Amaterasu, the Shinto Sun Goddess. She made way for Odin and Huang, her massive golden skirts rustling as she moved. The great rounded piles of shining hair atop her smooth face made her skirts seem as dull as night.
The All-Father nodded to both of them, his great white beard drawn back in a large grin as he made his way toward the center of the circle. Seven faces looked back at him. Marduk, the Tablets of Destiny sealed to his chest, studied Odin with midnight black eyes, sizing up a fellow warrior. Ormazd smiled at him faintly, cosmic light glinting off his bald scalp. Saule smiled openly at him, her golden lockes shining just as brightly as Amaterasu's. Damballa nodded his thick braids of ebony hair, a sharp contrast to the pristine white robe he wore. Hunab Ku's elaborate headdress stirred as he inclined his head toward the All-Father in a gesture of respect.
"It is a great honor to be in your presence once again." Odin spoke to the eight gods collectively, "But to echo Yu-Huang, it is a shame that we must come together hunder such dire conditions. If I may ask, why have we all been brought here so soon? From the little I know, the time we confront Thanos is still days away. Why have we assembled here so long before battle?"
"So that we might gather our strength, regal Asgardian." Marduk replied, his voice fiery at the thought of combat, "Here, we are unpressured by the demands of reality and our respective subjects. Here, the only thing that occupies our minds is the war to come. We are more focused here than we ever could be in our own realms."
"I had not considered that, Babylonian, but your words make sense." Odin replied, still a bit of tension between the two warriors.
"Enough of this grim talk!" Yu-Huang broke in, "Let us talk of days past, when things were better. And the days yet to come, when this crisis is in the past."
"Yes, yes..." Odin replied, "Talk of your great adventures, all the tremendous battles you have fought, and of your victories."
And so they did. The nine Sky-Fathers spoke for what seemed like forever, time meaning nothing to them in that neverending world of white. They barely noticed as flashes of light heralded the appearance of Surtur, once again wielding his sword Twilight. Ymir was not far behind, along with the Wormwords and the Particulates.
As the long conversation began to slowly draw to a close, Odin spotted a cloaked figure from the side of his eye. Lowering his voice, he leaned over and asked Yu-Huang, "Do my eyes decieve me, or is that..." he trailed off, eyes making the object of his question clear.
The Jade Emperor nodded slowly, "Yes, it is. He goes by the name Scrier now."
"The hyprocrite," Odin responded with disgust, "taking a name that so contradicts his true nature. If he truly were a 'scrier,' he would not be what he is now."
"True, All-Father. Best we leave him to his own thoughts, though..."
There was the characteristic, uncomfortable pause signalling the end of conversation for several moments. Finally, Odin broke the silence, "It is time that I began preparing for the conflict ahead, my brothers and sisters. I wish you all well in the coming battle." He nodded to each god in turn before leaving the circle and the stone slab entirely, aiming to find a vacant space to focus his mind and body.
He passed strange entities, gods from alien pantheons he had surely never heard of before. Gigantic cosmic beings him no more heed than a fly as he passed near them. It seemed as though hours had elapsed before he found another chunk of floating rock to call his own. Even it was not completely unoccupied. A tall, thin figure eyed the Asgardian with curiousity as he landed.
"Greetings, Lord Odin." the blue-skinned figure said coolly, "It is an interesting game we play today, isn't it? All the players arrayed for a final desperate strike. But can even both sides defeat a single King this day?"
"Aye, Grandmaster, I believe we can." Odin responded, obviously tired of speaking to the Elder already, "It will be a difficult struggle, though. Many of us will die..."
"Pawns must be surrendered to buy time so that the Knights and Rooks may move into position. 'Tis the strategy of the game. Tell me, Asgardian, will you be one of the slain littering the field of battle when the day is done?"
"To die in combat is the greatest honor I, or any other Asgardian can recieve..."
The Grandmaster smiled slightly, taking it for a definitive answer, and said nothing. Odin smiled inwardly afterward when he realized his small talk with the Elder had ended. Walking to the far side of the rock slab, as far away from the Grandmaster as possible, he set himself into a Warrior's Trance, preparing for the battle to come. But he could not shake the feeling that his answer to the Elder's final question had been more prophetic than he dared guess.
Continue to Chapter 15
Return to Twilight War Homepage
Presented by the Silver Surfer Website and Thanos: Mad Titan Website