Foundations Forged Before Nightfall - Chapter 1

Written by Warren "Azmodi" Entros, Edited by E.A.Morrissey
by Lord Thanos, Wed Design by James Pedrick
Characters are the property of Marvel Comics

Note: This installments follows the events of the Foundations Forged Before Nightfall Prelude

Booted feet clamped 'cross the shining metal floor, glinting silver as if a speck of dirt had never fallen upon the panes of steel in all the centuries since they had been laid. Light streaked across the expansive observatory, gleaming out from the mottled blue and white globe, which hung half-revealed in the curving window that dominated the chamber. The ceiling, that too silver, arced high above the head of the armored scientist.

Striding still for several more moments, for the observatory was built for one whose stature was greater than his own, but finally came to a halt several meters from the gigantic ovular portal, and gazed out at the gleaming orb that he had once called home. Thickly gloved hands clasped between his back, the geneticist gazed in quite solitude at Earth for what seemed to him an exquisite eternity. In the silence of his own mind and the alien chamber, for perhaps the first time since he had recovered control of his own impressive mental facilities, he felt truly at peace.

Through the tinted lenses of his elaborate helm, he could almost imagine the teaming spectrum of life thriving on that distant world, all so ripe to be exploited. Exploited not for his own purposes, or for any others', but only their own. All the myriad creatures nestled 'pon Earth, both complex and simple, possessed more potential than even the greatest minds of the planet could dare surmise. Within those simple strands of DNA lay seeds capable of changing the face of the universe itself. All one had to do was recognize the sleeper and awaken it to the truth, and events would fall into their respective, intricate places.

He had tried to awaken humanity from their slumber, tried to show them how small their lives were in comparison to the great odyssey that awaited, had tried to help them along the evolutionary path. Unfortunately, the protectors of that humanity, arrogant creatures that thought they understood the way of things better than those they supposedly served. They did not see the kind intent within his plans, and had spit in his eye when he peered down to their level and sought to push them along to greater glory.

After so many failures, so many misunderstandings, the scientist had finally realized that perhaps it was not his place to usher mankind into the next stage of being, that such a task was meant only for creatures who possessed power and knowledge that dwarfed even his own. He had lost his most valuable possession trying to understand one of those same primal forces, and now that he had it only recently returned realized that it was their place to foster change, not his.

"Even after so many years spent watching it," came an ethereal and alien tone from behind the scientist, "I still find it beautiful."

"The surface is but a dull shade compared to the glory which lies below, Uatu." the geneticist replied without turning to the keeper of the grand palace, for he could see his impressive stature reflected well enough in the thick glass. "The days ahead shall surely be the greatest I have ever witnessed. I cannot express my gratitude toward you for affording me the opportunity to observe this event."

The former Watcher shook his great head in disagreement, "I only alerted you to what shall soon occur, Doctor Wyndham. You came of your own volition, not mine. I had only felt it appropriate that you would wish to witness the Ascension of your own race."

Beneath his mask, the High Evolutionary smiled, "It is all I have wished for in my life, Uatu. All the plots, all the schemes, everything I have ever done has been for the benefit of humanity. True, perhaps at times I strayed into dalliances for my own benefit, but always did I return to my true calling. This is what I have sought throughout the years."

Uatu nodded in reply but said nothing, and the two entities lapsed into silence once again. It was far from an uncomfortable silence, not borne of the lack of anything to say, but rather the shared appreciation of a treasure beyond all value. In the eyes of both the renegade Watcher and misunderstood scientist, it was plainly obvious that although both had seen sights greater than any average man and had thoughts greater than that same man, still did they believe that simple planet to be the centerpoint of their lives.

The calm silence was broken by the hum of great engines, buried deep within the latticework of Uatu's monstrous citadel. The sound was far from obtrusive or grating, yet compared with the dim quietude of what had come before it seemed a thunderclap.

Together the two beings turned their heads to watch what had given rise to the noise. The High Evolutionary looked up at the ceiling with curiosity, for upon the seamless steel had appeared a wide ebon portal, no more than two feet away from his own position. Uatu's serene features did not express the same interest, as did Wyndam's, for he knew well what was to come.

From the dark portal slid a cylindrical tube, quite wide, and slowly that shaft of translucent glass sank to the floor, joining with a similar aperture and ceiling with a the sound of vacuum. Fluid then rushed down the length of tube, a waterfall of slightly blue-tinged liquid that quickly filled up the entirety of the formidable space, leaving but one element left to be added.

A strange green mass slowly exited from the unseen labyrinths above, floating down filling the entire glass shaft with its bloated and inhuman self. Dozens of writhing tentacles flowed from the top of the emerald globule, disappearing into the depths of darkness in the ceiling.

For a moment the High Evolutionary studied the strange thing, seeing nothing that he could recognize. Then slit-like eyes slowly manifested themselves and a large yawning mouth that glowing yellow from within. The creature seemed in truth nothing but a great jade head, almost imperceptibly bobbing in the clear fluid.

It took its first breath of the artificial liquid, and a proliferation of shimmering bubbles spiraled to the top of the tank and out of sight. Those two golden eyes, devoid of pupils, were attired in wisdom and knowledge that could not be gathered in the lifetime of a normal man. They peered deeply into the High Evolutionary, probing with a mind alien and unknowable.

"The Supreme Intelligence of the Kree..." Wyndham said with a mixture of wonder and curiosity, "I am gladdened to see you here. Ever since you destroyed your own empire in order to foster there develop, I have wished to meet and speak with you. You are truly a genius beyond compare."

"Thank you, High Evolutionary." the Supreme Intelligence replied politely, but with a voice that would surely bellow grandly even when it whispered, "I too have heard of your exploits, and they are impressive indeed. We are kindred spirits of a sort, drawn together by selfless purpose. Uatu did well in bringing us together for this momentous occasion."

"It was a small task to free you from your S.H.I.E.L.D. imprisonment, Supreme Intelligence." the recused Watcher spoke in response, turning back the viewing portal. Serene as always, "It would have been... unfair for either of you to be deprived of this opportunity, one which few beings are ever able to witness, no matter how long-lived."

"Indeed, in all the centuries of my existence," said the Intelligence, "with all the thousands of minds at my disposal, I have only heard of a single other occurrence. The results of that remain unknown, for all our probes approaching the planet in question were summarily destroyed."

Beneath his helm, the scientist's eyes widened at this paltry bit of data, so easily shared by the organic supercomputer. He could not help but be impressed by the sheer amount of knowledge secreted away in the Intelligence's memories. How he hungered to speak with the monstrous being at length and probe those depths.

The lure of further conversation between the now trio of entities was great, but it seemed that they preferred to look upon the distant sphere of Earth instead of expressing their thoughts, letting their respective eyes roll across the mottled place, which seemed so small and insignificant in the night.

Surprisingly, it was Uatu who fractured the contemplative silence with his unchanging voice; "Our final guest may perhaps seem a barbarian or tyrant to you both, especially you, Doctor Wyndham. But, I assure you, beyond his megalomania lie goals similar to your own. All the two of you need do is look closely enough."

"I am sure that both these evolutionary dabblers are more than capable of glimpsing my true nature, if they truly apply themselves." said a fourth, new voice from behind the small gathering of observers and shapers.

The Intelligence rotated in his fluid-filled chamber and Wyndham turned his head to see and identify this final participant. Clad in dark blue and silver armor, with a face almost human, but traced with a ghastly blue deformity about the lips, this being was instantly recognizable to the High Evolutionary.

"Apocalypse?" he could not help but spit, his normally calm voice churned with disgust, "I had hoped never to cross paths with you again. Our last encounter was... unpleasant."

"For us both, Doctor Wyndham." En Sabah Nur replied as he strode into the heart of the grouping, coming to stand only a few paces between the Evolutionary and Supremor, "I have not intention of rising in conflict with you again, High Evolutionary. We are here at the behest of Uatu, and I would not dare violate the sanctity of his glorious abode."

As he spoke, the mutant did not realize that the prying golden eyes of the Kree organic computer were studying him. From his unchanging position it still seemed he was rewarded with perceptions far beyond any mortal could dream of. His practiced stare studied the very movements of Apocalypse, analyzed the way he spoke and what the words meant, even if those meanings were intentional or no. Within those small moments he had taken measure of the mutant overlord, but his reactions to those findings could not been seen upon that emerald alien countenance.

"As I knew it would be, otherwise I would never have invited you here." the former Watcher said simply, again turning to look out into the sea of space, and at the still Earth in the distance.

"I have heard of your exploits, Apocalypse." the Supreme Intelligence said now, expression remaining neutral and unreadable, "I believe that given more time, your goals would have most definitely come to fruition. Unfortunately, matters appear to be out of your hands, as of now."

"So Uatu's message implied." Nur spoke, taking care to never look directly into the golden orbs of the great living machine. He seemed almost intent upon not even acknowledging the Kree mechanism as a sentient being, choosing instead to treat Supremor as one would an appliance rather than an equal.

The Supreme Intelligence smiled widely as he saw the reaction, or perhaps lack thereof, he had elicited from the deformed mutant. Dangerous mischief sparkled in the organism's warped features and deep eye sockets, but he did nothing to further Apocalypse's discomfort. Instead, Supremor went the way of Uatu and fell back into studying the mottled planet, which lay across the barren lunar plain.

Silence now knit between the space and occupied it, as the quietude had never managed in the past. With almost grim finality it wrapped its tight fist 'round the four beings, all more than powerful in their own rights, and subdued them as if they were children. The gathering was bound now, ominously, waiting and watching the Earth, for it seemed as though they were incapable of tearing their own eyes from the shining globe.

Suddenly, for it was a jarring effect serving to shatter the great sameness that had hung like a curtain across the grouping, a wave of shadow fell across the surface of the Earth's sole satellite. Like a rolling tide the darkness unfolded upon the landscape, dimming the portal and making it seem as though night had come at last to the Moon.

Slowly, a massive shape crept into view, a sliver of Grey star-metal that appeared at the very top of the curving view-portal. Its surface was heavily lined and attired in intricate shapes and figures, all of which seemed utterly random but at the same time seemed to possess their own specific geometry, if only the beholder could discern its own self-imposed order.

"Look," said Uatu, with what could have been akin to almost child-like wonder, "the Fifth Host comes now for the Earth."



The great oval-ship that carried the Celestial Fifth Host in its metal belly carried across space, making no sound despite its immense size. Nearly as large as the pockmarked satellite it was sweeping past, the Host-ship nevertheless glided, as would a bird through the ebon night, regardless of its awkward shape.

Traveling slowly, the titanic vessel took nearly half an hour to completely free itself from the space around the Moon, and by then the outer reaches of the star-craft had already begun to brush the orbit of the mottled brown and blue planet that served as its destination.

No movement shimmered across the surface of the Host-ship, yet the thoughts and intentions of its silent masters were clearly evident. Where before the returning Fourth Host had at least tolerated the paltry defenses of the small world Terra, allowing them to feebly unleash their onslaughts against unfeeling star-forged frames, the Fifth Host seemed to possess not the patience of its predecessor.

The ovular, disc-shaped S.H.I.E.L.D. weapons platforms spun to life as the Host-ship approached, yet as their weapons came to bear, their planet-bound operators were shocked to see that those particle beams and missiles would not respond to their commands. Running lights dimmed on the once animated military modules, and all life ceased in their steely frames within minutes of the Celestial approach.

For a few tense moments the gleaming orbital defense grid, originally a defense against Magneto the Master of Magnetism, shimmered to life, enclosing Earth in a protective cage of sizzling bright laser beams. And then, as if an invisible hand had reached out and touched the grid of defensive power, it shorted out and dimmed to nothing, as quickly as it had come into being.

Earth now seemed a helpless child, held against its will before a parent whose intentions were far from obvious. Those few mortals and immortals below who knew of the impending danger huddled in their hideaways, surrounded by great technology and weapons they thought would save them from the wrath of the Space Gods. Across phone lines and satellite-linked monitors, they conversed, shouted, and cried, all wishing they knew what to do. All remembered the last visit from the Celestials, mere months before, and how impotent the lot of them had been before such limitless cosmic might.

The planet's defenders and administrators paused and watched the great ship hovering above their collective heads. Their impressive powers were as nothing compared to forces which dwarfed even nature itself, and all the heroes could do was wait for their fates to be decided by minds far beyond their grandest contemplation's or comprehension's.

In answer to their unvoiced questions, caught long ago in their tight throats, the bottom of the immense spacecraft slid open, revealing nothing save unknowable blackness within. The first figure to slip through into the weightlessness of space was both familiar and alien to all those who watched, for every Celestial looked very much the same, and all were very much unique at the same moment. Those below had no name for this Space God, for the Fifth Host had never visited the Earth before, though in the highest corridors of cosmic power he was known simply as Tannavor the Formulator. Clad in armor of white and emerald, carrying an intricately detailed staff in his massive hands, the Celestial began his slow descent toward the world below, oblivious to all save his own mysterious purposes.

For silent minutes the solitary drifted downward through the depths of the ether, entering into the atmosphere and continuing his descent toward his appointed place on the motley world.

The darkness of the Host-ship now disgorged two more vaguely humanoid shapes from its metal carapace, each traveling side-by-side to there shared destination. Lakrand the Cataloguer attired in cobalt and a deep purple, and his fellow Space God Eludean the Mollifier arrayed in crimson and silver began their long journey to Earth. Both moved at the exact same pace, in so calculated and precise a manner that no man-made machine could hope to match such coordination.

As the twin agents of the One Above All put a sizable distance between themselves and the Host-ship, the next two Celestials made their own entrances, in the exact same fashion as their two predecessors. Ishius the Overseer and Ghuigar the Perceiver, each clad in varying shades of red and yellow respectively, followed in plodding succession their forebears and began the trek below.

Things progressed much the same until the entirety of the Fifth Host had been exhausted. In pairs of two the mile-tall Celestials journeyed down to Earth. Rimenhaige the Cleanser, attired in plates of Grey and orange, traveled alongside Ilsrum the Diversifier, in almost insubstantial pink and blue. Scathan the Approver, clad in emerald, came alone, for behind his steely form remained only two presences in the mighty space-faring oval.

In the deepest regions of the Host-ship the One Above All retained himself, for he was lord and member of all the Celestial Hosts, but never did he accompany them to the planets they visited. Too did Draichim the Facilitator remain aboard, for his all-encompassing services would not be required lest Scathan announce his final approval of Earth?

As it is often the nature of things for the greatest to come last, Edrashem the Transmuter, master of the Fifth Host and subordinate to none save the One Above All, was the final Celestial to make his appearance and start downward for the planet. Taller still, if only imperceptibly so, then his fellows, Edradshem was clad in intricately detailed armor of gold and white, and he seemed a living monument of purity in the blackness of space.

Through the orbit and atmosphere the Fifth Host journeyed, the clouds they passed through rent to swirling bits in the wake of their passing. Below, the people of Earth went about their daily business, for they believed nothing was out of the ordinary. They were completely unaware that their fates wrested 'pon the judgment of Scathan the Approver, and that no matter the decision, there lives would forever be irrevocably altered.

Yet those who did know of the rising danger could do nothing still save watch, and check and re-check their impotent weapons of war, hoping that they would serve a suitable defense against the Space Gods. But in their hearts, the defenders and leaders knew that even the lowliest Celestial was far beyond their realm to harm, and that they were truly at the mercy of the Fifth Host.

At last the long trek of the Space Gods was ended in the snowy regions of the Alaskan mountains. In the midst of those stony peaks there lay an ovular, the greatest heights within it sloping foothills. It was there they set down, the ground quaking under their heavy footfalls.

Why those mysterious entities selected such a place to gather and hold their judgment can never be known by mortal minds. Perhaps it held a special place in the cosmic scheme that none save the Celestials were capable of recognizing, or perhaps it was merely a random choice of location.

For whatever reasons they had, the Fifth Host assembled at their own paces and began their silence commencement upon a great jagged peak rising up from the countryside. Edrashem stood above the others, if only slightly so, 'pon a sloping hill, while four Celestials moved to flank him on each side. Then they began their voiceless commencement, no sign of life in their bodies. Their minds wandered freely about the world, observing and judging, slowly plodding toward a decision which would leave the planet Earth, if not a truly singular realm in all the cosmos, duly unique in its own right.



"Where, where am I?" asked the broken man, cringing in the dark. His eyes could see nothing back blackness, and blind fear threatened to overwhelm his senses. He looked about wildly for the presence he sensed nearby, but could barely perceive the Dark Watcher.

"In transition." Wylig said back with a tone that announced he would brook no more questions from the lowly creature, "Now be silent. We have almost reached our destination."

The sad infant wheeled about frantically again, seeking something to can succor from. In his panic memories flashed through his shattered mind. He was the past in glimmering fragments, and those images were far more horrifying than his current plight or even his stay in Mephisto's scathing Hades. Where before he had been ignorant of his sorry state, now he glimpsed in broken bits the being he had once been, and even the vague recognition of how far he had fallen made him weep openly.

Coming to him jagged tatters, the rent memories swept 'cross his blind eyes in a rolling tumult, arranged not by occurrence or importance.

A man, himself, dressed all in silver, standing above the broken body of an ageless foe.

He, a helpless babe, being cast into the future by thoughtless parents.

Striding among the corpses of his kind, the victims of his own legacy of hatred and destruction.

Facing down his mirror image, he nothing but a simulacrum yet still far greater than the man who was the original.

He, standing in a crowd, firing at a fool; killing the dream.

Seeing the face of the man who wasn't worthy to live escaping the tendrils of death, while he was dragged inexorably downward toward a fate he did not deserve.

These and a thousand more, memories flooded through his brain and he cried out with anger, shrieked with loss, and tears ran down his hollow cheeks as he saw how helpless he was, what a broken shell. How much he was now like that man he had faced in a previous life.

Suddenly, the blackness parted before him like a double-curtain, and eyes that had beheld nothing save burning ethereal fire and otherworldly misery for countless time saw something new. Shocking was this unaccustomed world, and he averted his gaze at first, not wanting his wretched but familiar realm to be expanded upon, lest it return to him even more wracking memories.

"We have arrived." Wylig stated bluntly. He cast his piercingly shadowed gaze down at the worm of a man, and spat, "Look at this place, for it will your all from this time forward. Look!"

As if the twisted Watcher had pulled strings attached to his flesh, the broken man was forced to raise his head and eyes, and behold the utter strangeness of his surroundings as they swept in around him.

The space was as black as it had been before, but not so all-encompassing. You could see the darkness, but not be enveloped by it. The upper reaches of the sky contained odd clouds of dark violet mottled with deep blue, and behind the bank of strangling clouds, a slight disc of a moon struggled to be seen. Surely its light would have been magnificent, had it not been so shrouded by the clouds, which absorbed nearly all its gleaming white light and kept it from ranging across the realm.

He saw that at the epicenter of the strange place, their assured destination hovered an island of sorts. Its dimensions seemed fluid one moment it appeared small, another it appeared infinitely larger. However, its shape never changed; always, it was much like a cone, with a rocky tail jutting down into the abyss and ending in a craggy point. The top of the island was too devoid of vegetation, save for what appeared an exceedingly thin carpet of sickly emerald glass, almost devoid of its color.

But the true point 'round which all things in the plane surely revolved was the horrifying shape growing up from the center of the space-borne isle. A tree it was, yet like no tree he had ever seen before, that he was sure of. It flowed organically as would any other, yet grew abnormally tall and its bark was what seemed liquid quicksilver, glimmering in the dim light; it seemed almost as if the object was a frozen river of silver which threatened to resume running at any given moment.

It had nearly countless branches up along its length. Hundreds, thousands. And each branch ended in a menacing point, far sharper than anything a mere man could have hoped to forged in his primitive fires.

Upon those branches, in differing numbers, hung shapes of all sorts, he saw. Men and women who looked much like himself and those other creatures so odd that his broken senses could only surmise to be aliens. Impaled as they were, not a single drop of blood fell from their bodies. It was as if the organic spikes had been driven cleanly through, and then literally merged into their forms, so that now the punisher and sinner were inseparable, one and the same.

Writhing on their silver stakes, the victims cried and shrieked out in their own time, their minds too consumed with agony to hear the noises of the others. Yet no matter how loud the scream or how high the pitch, those sounds never seemed at the forefront of the queer and terrifying world. They formed a background opera of mingling voices of pain and sorrow, which served to eat at one's mind until he went mad, and pillow the insane with even greater depravity.

The hollow man shied away from the scene, for he felt what little sanity and strength that remained in him begins to falter as he beheld the shocking and terrible image. Yet a large hand with inhumanly long fingers wrapped round his head and forced his gaze back to the glistening tree of pain and suffering.

He squeezed his eyelids tight shut against the mocking silver sentinel, a last bulwark to keep those dreadful images from rending his mind to even greater pieces. But he felt his eyes open not of their own accord, pried open by a force that was not his own, forcing him to watch until tears beaded in his sockets and ran down his face in wavering runnels.

Beside the mocking tree now hovered that had not been there only moments before, the picture of mortal suffering given living form. It stood even taller than the twisted Watcher at his side, and was by leaps and bounds far more stoic. The creature possessed no flesh or bone, its body only a great mass of shimmering razor blades and quicksilver tendons bound and bent together to form a figure only vaguely reminiscent of a man's. From its gleaming carapace sprouted four arms, each with one too many joints, and where its shoulder blades should have huddled swept out terrifying wings of liquid steel. Taller than the entity they were attached to, and possessing nearly twice the girth, those expansive wings, too sheathed in razors, made the metallic beast a twisted angel in the dark sky, hovering beside the victims he was supposed to protect.

Set deep inside the monstrosity's mouth-less, inhuman visage were two gleaming crimson eyes, each multifaceted and slowly pulsating with inner fire. They saw all that was before them and far more, and in their quiet, ornate simplicity betrayed a cunning and intelligence that immediately the small man feared and loathed. Atop its head sat a mighty prong that rose high in the air, paramount of all the spines flowing from its body. Behind it lay another spike, and another, a trail of silver deadliness, each a bit less impressive than the one that came before, running down the metal demon's back, in-between those mockeries of wings.

Murderous curiosity surmounted the cringing man's fear, if only for a moment and from his raw throat he managed to croak, "Who, what is that?"

Wylig's voice was as cold and neutral as ever when he replied, but had the broken creature been more than a shadow of his former keen self, surely he would have noticed a touch of respect slipping through the renegade Watcher's tones. "He is the Lord of Pain, the Silent One, your new master. Struck mute by his father upon his birth, for that apathetic being hated what he was and feared to hear his voice. But soon, for the first time, Eyalus shall speak, for I have found him the perfect mouthpiece."

"Me, me?" the shattered human simpered.

For the first time, the robed entity smiled, "Yes. Once you were mighty, now broken. You shall be re-made in the image of the Lord of Pain, forged in the crucible of his blazing fires, bound to his will. You shall become his avatar, his Voice."

Eyes now fraught with naked panic turned their gaze back to the gleaming silver figure hanging beside the twisted tree, for even that poor man was able to discern what a horrid fate he had been condemned to. He reached down inside himself, searching for the power he knew he possessed, but had forgotten how to harness. Mental fingers scrabbled against black wall of weakness and fear, probed through the ashes of the individual had once been.

He found nothing.

A strong hand clamped onto his arm, encircling it easily, and with such force that the wretch knew he would lose that limb if he dared resist. A tear welled and dropped from his pupil-less left eye as the Watcher led them across the realm of blackness, toward the horrible tree and its hideous master.

When they stood before the Silent One, he seemed a sky-scraper of razor-blades, so huge that the man knew that one gleaming hand could easily cradle him in its immensity. The monstrous tree stood taller still as he looked up at it, and could not see its apex, lost in the hazy clouds.

"Take him, Eyalus." Wylig urged, "Set him upon your Tree of Pain and cleanse him fully of all that he was; re-make him in your own image."

Those deadly crimson eyes flared a shade brighter at the black Watcher's words, but for a moment the gigantic entity remained still. Relief washed over the broken man, and for those few fleeting instants he thought that perhaps his life had been saved. How he looked back on his time in Mephisto's Hades with longing now, and he wished to return there, if only to be free from those awful silver countenance.

That relief was ground to nothingness, replaced by searing terror, as the Silent One moved one of its deadly hands down towards the broken man's small form. He dared not move away from the gleaming monster, lest the Watcher crush him with naught but a second thought. And even if he somehow managed to escape Wylig, he knew there is no running from that metal beast! His fate was sealed, and in the ruined corridors of his mind he knew there to be no escape from that certainty.

Infinitely sharp fingers closed around his body, already beginning to shred his charred flesh. Tears streamed unabated from his eyes at the pain that was beyond pain, and he clenched his teeth together until blood began to fill his mouth with coppery taste.

Uncaring of what his simple grip inflicted upon the man, Eyalus bore him up to the ominous Tree of Pain, unerringly aiming for one of the few unoccupied branches situated within the mid-section of the twisted sentinel. Without gentility the Silent One jammed the broken man onto that gleaming spear-point, impaling him fully through the chest in one quick motion.

The pain of the creature's grip was as nothing compared to that of the hideous tree. All thought, all memory was scoured away from that poor man's mind, replaced by throbbing, unadulterated sensation. It was all encompassing, inescapable, unstoppable. Everything faded before that bloody red field that fell upon his vision and pressed him unerringly toward an unconsciousness still filled with horrible pain.

His eyes glazed nearly immediately and he slumped over upon the branch, having not even noticed that no blood flowed from the terrible wound in his torso. Indeed, it seemed as if the living quicksilver had merged with his flesh, making the broken man inseparable from the tree, which tortured him so.

Far below, Wylig gazed up at the sight and smiled again, "Soon you will have your Voice, Eyalus, and then can our task truly begin in earnest."

The Silent One's smoldering eyes looked down at the renegade Watcher with unknowable intensity.

"I must take my leave of this place now, if only for a short spell. There are others I must awaken before going to Earth. The Fifth Host moves far more quickly than I expected. They cannot be allowed to finish their dread task."

Still no response uttered or no, came from the Lord of Pain, and Wylig turned and was gone in a small flash of Grey light. The Silent One peered at the remains of the aperture that had rent his realm only moments before and sealed it with an unknowable thought, for he allowed no breach of consistency in his world.

Then Eyalus looked back at the broken man hanging on the Tree of Pain studied him silently. The Lord of Pain waited in silence, the breadth of his patience as unknown as the timbre of his voice.

Continued in Chapter 2

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