The Twilight War


Twilight War - The Prelude

Written by Warren Entros, edited by James Pedrick
Image
and above logo created
by J.S. Johnston
Characters drawn by Ron Lim and Bruce Zick
Click on here for larger version of image

Click here for larger version!Power. Energy. He was surrounded in it, bathed in it. He was it.

Power, a coin he traded in readily, and one he always sought. Or had always sought. That had been so long ago...

The blinding force ended abruptly. Its caster stood in a cloud of cooling steam, looking at his massive hands, clad now in shattered and melted gauntlets. The clothing he wore was mere shreds now, golden metal reduced to blotched slag, blue uniform tattered and flaking away in blackened chips.

He smiled.

Power. Power and knowledge.

He turned away from his former target, a fifty-foot thick wall of adamantium burned straight through in less than a minute. Yes, he had all the power he needed. But not the knowledge. Not yet.

Striding toward a floating disc, he peered down at his broken outfit. It had served him well in the past. But, now it was time for something new. Fitting, a new appearance for the final gambit.

A small smile touched his stony face once again as the disc lifted him upward, taking him up a long shaft carved into dark rock. Sunlight shown brightly above.

His journey ended, he made his way toward a simple house, absently glancing out at a barren cornfield. He had neglected it lately. His gaze fell upon a bare scarecrow. He stopped, putting his hands to his hips, considering. Yes, this would be the final gambit.

Resuming, he made his way into the small dwelling, made his way toward another metallic disc hovering over another long shaft, this one coated in brilliant silver metal. Standing on it triggered its function immediately. Soon he was once again slowly sinking into the bowels of the planet he had taken as a home.

The disc came to a stop over a slight indentation in the metallic floor. Its passenger disembarked, paying the wonders around him no heed. All that had been were creations of his. Passing fancies soon forgotten. Now they were nothing more than tools and servants, stairs leading to greater heights.

He strode to a small doorway several meters from the disc, which hummed away as if bored, waiting for another passenger. He entered the cramped space, and looked past a small metal table and up at his "new self."

Hanging suspended on the wall was his new uniform, a fitting replacement for his old. It would be more than able to tolerate the raging energies he had only recently learned to process.

The visible differences were merely cosmetic. Where there had once been gold, now there was silver. Where once there was blue, black now stood out starkly. Underneath was where all the major changes were. Was he himself now much the same? Seemingly unchanged on the surface, but far different beneath? He smiled at his own unvoiced questions. Only time would tell.

Stripping off one of his older gauntlets, he tossed its charred form on the table. Walking around the small metallic square, he carefully plucked the blackened glove's silver counterpart from the wall. Fitting it on his hand, he pulled it tight, opening and closing his gigantic fist several times. He smiled once again, coldly.

Yes, only time would tell.

 

 

Bifrost sparkled in eternal night. A bridge made of rainbow, it was the only way to reach storied Asgard from Midgard. Its ever-vigilant guardian, Heimdall, stood watch. Should giants ever come to Asgard, he would be the first to know.

The Asgardian's keen sight soon picked out an approaching figure, slowly making his way up the sparkling bridge. Clad all in silver and black, Heimdall did not recognize him until the wanderer stood close enough to look the watchman directly in the eye.

"You...You are called Thanos, are you not?" Heimdall asked, grip tightening on his sword. This man's reputation far proceeded him.

Arms crossed against his chest, the interloper replied after a time, "Yes, I am Thanos. And I have come here, to fabled Asgard, to challenge Odin, ruler of the gods."

"Odin has no time for petty contests, intruder. Go now, lest I note your trespass."

"If Odin has no time for Thanos of Titan, surely he remembers our last meeting. He is a coward not to face me again."

Heimdall's eyes hardened to granite, knuckles going white on his sword handle, "Guard your words, Thanos. Calling an Asgardian a coward is not a wise course of action. Lord Odin has killed men for far less."

"Nonetheless I say it. Odin is a coward, a dog without honor unless he faces me in combat. Tell him, Heimdall. I will remain here and await his reply."

The Norse god eyed the Titan carefully.

"When I give my word, I keep it, Asgardian. You are not the only ones with honor."

Eyes still suspicious, Heimdall turned away from the Titan, who stood merely waiting, eyes fixed straight ahead.

"And tell Odin to bring his ring, Draupner."

Brow furrowing in anger, Heimdall increased his speed, running toward Asgard as fast as his thickly muscled legs would take him. And overhead, two black ravens wheeled about, then they also flew toward Asgard, feathered wings soon outpacing Heimdall's legs.

 

 

Odin sat on his high throne Hlidskjalf, a frown hidden beneath his huge snowy beard. On his arm perched the two ebony birds, Muninn and Huginn. Below, chained to the floor, sat two large wolves. Peaceful in sleep, they were obviously ferocious when awakened.

"And the Titan has called me a coward, faithful Muninn?" the Sky Father asked.

"Yes, Lord Odin. He says that unless you battle him you are a dog without honor." the raven replied in a scratchy voice.

Odin's face reddened in anger, but it was only a flicker before the Asgardian suppressed it, "The Titan proved himself a mighty foe, but no match for me. Surely he courts Hela if he wishes to battle me again."

Now Huginn spoke, voice identical to his brother's, "He wishes you to bring your mighty ring Draupner, Lord Odin."

Odin's eyes narrowed, face turning crimson once again, "He wishes to battle me for Draupner? A challenge it is indeed." he paused, looking down at ancient ring resting on his second to last finger. Old runes carved in aged ivory, it was a powerful weapon, "If he wishes me to send him to Hela, let him. I will grant his request."

Standing, he told to ravens, "Go, have them bring my armor and helm. And make sure that Sleipner is readied."

Munnin and Huginn nodded and flew from their perch, "And wine. Make sure there is wine." he added. They nodded again in midair and flew out a large doorway on the opposite of the large throne room, "Today will be a great day."

Odin made his way down the steps to his wolves, waking now. He petted them both once, then unhooked their chains, "Come Freki and Geri, I will have you present at my victory."

Striding toward the doorway, he was stopped in his tracks as Heimdall ran in.

"Apologies, Lord Odin. I came to tell you-"

"There is no need, faithful Heimdall. Muninn and Huginn have already told me the news. I go now toward battle."

"Yes, Lord Odin. Shall I accompany you?"

"There is no need, Heimdall. Stay. This will not be a long conflict."

Heimdall smiled and bowed, "Yes, my Lord."

Odin made his way from the room, Freki and Geri trotting behind him. Journeying down a long hall, he entered a large room, the walls lined with weapons of every sort. Axes, maces, and swords forged in mythic Uru steel also sat in various racks throughout the chamber, ready for use at any moment. The two ravens circled near the high ceiling, watching as two servants laid Odin's armor out on a long wooden table. Finally they set out a deep goblet fill to the brim with crimson wine. Upon seeing their lord they bowed deeply and scurried away.

Quickly he donned his armor, pulling it tight over his leather tunic. Dull silver shining in the dim lighting, he added the final touch: his helmet. An eagle's head cresting it and large wings affixed to each side, it truly was fit only for the head of the Norse pantheon.

Taking up the goblet he drank deeply, draining it in a single gulp. Wiping his mouth absently he turned, announcing to his animal companions, "To Sleipner, and then on to battle."

Walking at a brisk pace, he exited, continuing down the hall, the wolves and ravens trailing slightly behind. Finally he came to his personal stable. In the midst of it stood his faithful steed Sleipner. Huge it was, with eight legs and shining eyes. It snorted at the sight of its master, scratching at the floor with its shining hoof.

The Sky Father smiled and hoisted himself up on the steed's saddle, "Onward, to battle, mighty Sleipner!"

 

 

Thanos muttered something to himself about Asgardian pretentiousness just as Odin and his entourage came into view, the All Father's steed galloping toward upcoming battle at great speed. Far off in the distance mighty trumpets sounded, announcing the conflict yet to come.

Within several more moments Odin had reached the Titan, dismounting Sleipner and fixing Thanos with a fearsome gaze. The ravens wheeled over head, shouting in their true voices and the wolves bared their teeth in rictus snarls, dripping saliva on the pristine Bifrost. With a clicking of his teeth the Asgardian sent Sleipner galloping back to safety, near Asgard's towering gates. The others remained, stouthearted battle companions.

"Foul creature, I thought you had vowed never again to tread upon Asgard." Odin asked, voice thunderous.

"Not a vow, Odin, an afterthought. Thanos never breaks his word once given."

"And you have come here to challenge me once again, Titan?" He held up his bare fist, Draupner sparkling in the starlight, "You have come to duel me for this, fable Draupner, ring of rings?"

"A prize to be won, Lord Odin. A trophy."

"One you will never have, villain. Our last encounter should have proven your strength little match for mine."

Thanos smiled, a sparks firing in his ebony eyes, "I acted as a craven fool, then. Surely some of your son's Warrior's Madness infected me. This time you face a Thanos in his right mind."

Odin shook his head, "In the end it will not matter. Soon Hela will know you well."

"Once I thought I knew Death. I soon learned how little I knew. And you shall soon be likewise educated, Asgardian."

Odin's eyes glinted, a wicked grin covering his chiseled face, "Then let the battle commence, Thanos of Titan. I will show you power, for the last and final time."

The sparks became roaring fires, "We shall see, Lord Odin, we shall see."

He fired, a torrent of force emptying from Thanos' eye sockets. Slamming into Odin, the All Father was taken aback, pushed several steps away before regaining his composure and meeting the stream of energy with his own.

"You are better than before, Thanos. Stronger." Odin said through clenched teeth.

"As I told you, Odin." Thanos replied.

"I sense your dark power...And something else as well. What?"

The corners of the Titan's mouth turned up in a near-smile as he said, "I draw upon all the potential power of the universe, Asgardian. I call it the Zero Point Energy Field. It will prove to be your downfall." Odin grimaced.

The seesaw battle ended abruptly, as Thanos teleported, Odin pitching forward without something to ply his power against. Despite his awkward stance he saw the flash of light signaling Thanos' arrival behind him. Odin turned, striking the Titan with a back fist, followed by another blow.

Thanos staggered, and Odin pressed his advantage. He struck with divine power from his fists, forcing the Titan back. Baring his teeth, he poured on. Using the same trick Thanos had used on him, he ended his energy assault. The Eternal pitched forward; no resistance.

Seeing victory the All Father rushed in, delivering a knee to Thanos' midsection, doubling him over, followed by a resounding uppercut. Thanos staggered backward and Odin resumed his energy assault, sending the Titan flying away at high speeds.

His foe defeated, Odin took a deep breath, narrowing his eyes, "As I told you villain, your power is nothing compared to mine. Hela will greet you warmly." Slowly he strode toward the body, steam rising from Thanos' unscratched armor.

Eyes yet closed, the corpse smiled and wiped away a trickle of blood running down his mouth.

"You yet live, Titan." Odin sneered.

Thanos' eyes opened slowly, "How observant of you, regal Odin. Now, let the battle begin in earnest."

Odin's eyes flashed, but he was too late, white-hot beams of power tearing into him. Thanos stood, continuing the river of energy, increasing it from what he considered a dribbling trickle to a steady roar.

The All Father was driven back, Uru armor began to steam and bubble under the assault. With a shout that rocked the heavens he answered Thanos' attack with an energy shield, momentarily blocking the assault. He tore the searing armor from his torso and threw it to the ground. Snarling he charged, shattering his own protection and pushing his way toward Thanos despite the energy bared against him.

He reached his foe, delivering a straight fist to the Titan's face. Blocked, and with a counterblow firmly planted in Odin's ribs. Breath rushed from the Asgardian's lungs.

"I learned your ways of combat long ago, Odin. You will not find me lacking in this area either." A cross punch to the Asgardian's head, followed by a hammer blow to the shoulder.

Odin sagged, just for a moment, and struck again, ramming his other shoulder into Thanos' midsection, sending them both to the ground in a heap.

A flurry of bows ensued, leaving Odin's beard snowy white beard soaked in crimson, Thanos with a gash across his craggy face.

"You fight well, cur." Odin said in a tight voice, hands gripping Thanos' wrists, trying to keep his enemy's monstrous hands from his head, "But it is ended. What you seek shall end your life."

Ripping his hand free he brought it to an inch of the Titan's face, and discharged Draupner and point blank range. Odin was flung far away by the blast, landing hard. Freki and Geri rushed to their master, licking the blood away from his face, one of his eyes swollen shut and his hair singed. He smiled. It faded quickly.

"It is not yet finished, Odin. I still stand. Lest you be a coward not to continue the battle." Thanos' voice thundered over the battlefield. The ravens cawed overhead.

Slowly getting to his feet Odin surveyed his foe once again. Face and torso blackened, his armor still showed no signs of damage. Thanos' visage was grim, but Odin could not tell if it was in determination, or pain.

"You truly have learned the ways of the warrior, Thanos. But it is time that we ended this charade." He opened his hand, and a bright bar of shining white light appeared in it, solidifying into the form of Gungnir, his unerring spear, "Let it end with your death."

With a shout he hurled his trusted weapon. It never missed, and today was no exception. Plunging straight through Thanos' chest and out between his shoulder blades, it glowed with power, almost in satisfaction that it had hit yet another target dead-on.

Thanos slowly turned his gaze down toward the weapon protruding from his chest, grasping it with his two hands. He spoke slowly, as much to himself as his foe, "I am Thanos. I stay true to myself." Suddenly he swung his head to look at Odin. His eyes blazed, that wicked smile on his face again, "I am Thanos. I am beyond Death."

With a wrench he tore the spear from himself, trailing viscera and blood. Without another thought he tossed the weapon aside and advanced on his shocked enemy, "Yes, let us end this game."

In mid-stride he teleported. Appearing right in front of the startled Asgardian he struck. Two straight punches to the face followed by two crossing blows. Odin desperately backhanded his opponent with his remaining strength and fired a brief energy attack. He was answered with another armored blow to his face.

Their was a crack, the Asgardian's nose breaking, and several teeth flew from his gaping maw. He sagged, but his eye still shined. A warrior to the last. Hurling himself at his enemy Odin grabbed hold of his head, bring it to meet his with a thunderous sound. He drove two more blows into Thanos midsection before two fists caught his ribs in-between them. Black flecks danced in Odin's eyes, his vision beginning to turn crimson.

Axe handle blows fell on his back three times before finally striking the back of his skull, driving him to the ground.

Blackness, if only for a moment. Dazed sight quickly returned and Odin was immediately on his hands and knees, one hand to his forehead as he shook off the dizziness. Warrior instinct sensed Thanos looming above him, arms upraised with something clenched in his fists.

"It is ended." He brought Gungnir's haft down on the base of Odin's neck. The All Father's body dropped to the ground with a dull thud. Muninn and Hugnin screamed overhead and Freki and Geri howled in unison. Taking no notice, Thanos once again tossed the spear away and bent to remove Draupner from Odin's limp fingers. Taking it he stood and dropped it into a panel on his belt buckle and turned away.

Before he could take a step, the two ravens suddenly swooped into vision, heading for Thanos' shining eyes. He knocked them out of the air with a blast of power. A mere moment later sharp teeth drove into his leg. A second pair of jaws soon bit deeply into his neck.

Grabbing one by the neck, he hurled it to the ground, bringing a faint whimper. The other still snarled at his leg, shaking its head as if trying to tear the Titan's appendage off. Impressed by its tenacity, it did not stop him from grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and sending it down next to its brother.

Looking over the battlefield with hands on his hips, Thanos seemed pleased. Turning to go once again, he was stopped by a strangled voice, "Kill me, Titan...send me...to Valhalla."

Thanos smiled, but did not turn, "No, Asgardian, Death will not see you today. You proved yourself a worthy opponent and mighty warrior. Be secure in that fact."

And with that pronouncement he was gone in a bright flash of light, leaving Odin to listen as the footsteps of his people resounded on Bifrost, quickly running toward their fallen leader.

 

 

The shining gateway closed behind the battle weary Titan, leaving him on the deck of one of his multitude of starships. The dim lighting did little to illuminate the room. More came from the large view port peering out onto the stars.

He looked down at the gaping wound in his chest, almost as though it were on someone else beside him. He traced its ragged edge with a gloved finger, then examined the blood on his glinting fingertip.

Narrowing his eyes, he concentrated. Molecular reorganization required utter concentration and control, lest he accidentally split his own atoms. The fragility of the art made it too dangerous to use under most conditions, especially combat.

The wound seemed to writhe, as if alive, for several moments before it finally closed, disappearing along with the hole in his armor. Several more moments removed the soot from his face and healed minor cuts and bruises, including the tears in his neck and leg. He was whole once again.

Taking a seat in his command chair, he removed Draupner from his belt, holding it between his two fingers, examining the ancient runes etched into its surface. A trophy. A powerful trophy, but a trophy nonetheless.

The combat test of his new abilities had yielded pleasing results. He had defeated a battle-hardened foe who once had far outpaced him in terms of power. However, the talent would have to be refined further to reach its full potential. And it would surely be necessary for the gambit he was about to attempt.

Hitting a button on his armrest, he told the computer, "Set course for Target 01. Maximum speed."

The computer's response echoed in the formerly silent chamber, "Yes master. Course has been set, engines engaged."

Thanos nodded faintly. It had begun.

 


Continue to Chapter 1

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