The Eternals - Judgment of the Fifth Host, ch. 9

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All main characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics. This is a story of the Bronze Age Eternals.

Previous chapters are arranged in sequence on my blog.

Chapter Nine

South Pole, 1990

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As the screen faded to black again, a large, armored Eternal shouldered his way past Ikaris, Thena and the others. Gilgamesh stepped out onto the ice in front of the Ameythst Celestial and began to bellow, his arms flying wide, fists clenched in frustration.

“We tire of this shadow theater, space god! Enough! Let us speak the full truth in our own defense. Show our heroic deeds, of which you must know. You know they are many yet you conceal the facts!” Gilgamesh gathered a breath, pointed to the face of the Celestial and roared.

“You are a coward! Coward!”

BWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHMMMMMMM

This time the horn blast was so loud it drove all of the Eternals to their knees, clutching their ears in pain. The ice beneath the feet of Gilgamesh heaved up and he fell forward, prone at the feet of the purple giant. When they rose again, the black screen was shimmering again.

Mesopotamia, 2738 BC

It revealed a palace of stone and clay brick masonry, surrounded by a city of rough, single story dwellings and several tall ziggurats. Within the palace, Gilgamesh sat on a raised throne, resting his head on one arm. A palace priest was telling him tiresome news. It was the time of harvest feasts, but hunts and harvests have been weak this year. The people must go without the traditional rituals or the granaries and stores would not last the winter. Gilgamesh’s eyes brightened and he sprung up from his throne.

“The hunts of others have failed. I shall provide the harvest festival for the people!” He clapped the priest on the shoulder and strode off toward his armory.

Soon after, with a brace of javelins strung over his shoulder and a short sword at his belt, Gilgamesh set out for the edge of the city. He had not bothered with his armor or the helmet horned like a bull. It was just a hunt - what wild creature could harm him. He passed the guard at the northern gate of Uruk with a promise to return with meat for the feast. The guards cheered him and struck their spears on their shields as he strode off toward the nearby hills.

As soon as he was over the first hilltop and out of sight of the city, Gilgamesh raised his arms and leapt into the air. He levitated low at first, to stay behind the hills. Then he rose high into the sky, certain he was over the horizon visible from the walls of Uruk. He saw the landscape of Mesopotamia unfurl below him, broad plains of silt-formed fields braced by two great rivers. Soon he was soaring over the kidney-shaped sea that stretched into north. The cool air refreshed him.

As he passed the northern boundary of the sea, close-turfed steppe lands rolled out in all directions. They were dotted with herds of wild deer and elk. Gilgamesh knew he could simply cast javelins from the air, gather a mountain of venison on his back and return to Uruk within the hour. But what sport was in that? He wanted boar and he wanted to meet it on the ground.

Swooping lower, he spotted evidence of his prey. A sounder of eight females was grazing in a clearing. But these were barely two hands taller than Gilgamesh at the shoulder. He wanted bulls, their heads ten feet high, their shoulders twelve, their tusks longer than his short sword. He wanted a real fight.

Dropping to the ground near the females, Gilgamesh began to scout on foot. Soon, he spotted small trees with their trunks snapped over. There was coarse hair in the bark where a boar had scratched his back. From there, the Eternal picked up the musky scent and followed the trail of the animal into a small clump of denser trees. On the other side he spotted the bull. It scented him immediately and turned.

Gilgamesh brayed a loud sound of challenge. He knew words were wasted on the beast, but his intent would be clear. The boar lowered his head a moment, then reared up and brought his front hooves crashing on the ground, throwing large divots of earth and shaking the turf under the feet of Gilgamesh. The Eternal grinned in answer and brayed again. His hand went for a moment to his short sword but he left it in place. Yes, it would be a real fight.

The boar began to charge forward, lowering his tusks. Gilgamesh charged in turn, stretching out his bare hands to catch the beast by the head and throw it. But the first throw went to the boar, who tossed his head up at the last moment, evading Gilgamesh’s grasp and hooking the strap of his javelin quiver. Tossing his head sharply left, the boar hurled the Eternal over the full length of his back and into the range of his hind hooves. No sooner had Gilgamesh landed then the hooves began to pound his chest and midsection like trip hammers.

Gilgamesh was stunned for a moment, and then rolled out of the rain of the hooves. His left arm shot out, grasped one hind leg of the boar and reversed their roles. This time the boar flew over the Eternal’s head, landing like a felled oak on the turf nearby. The Eternal jogged away and turned at the same distance at which the duel had begun. He lifted off his javelins and unbuckled his sword. Then he threw two large handfuls of turf into the air and brayed again. This was becoming enjoyable.

The boar righted itself, shook off the dust and torn turf, and then squared off again. This time Gilgamesh charged first. The boar answered with a slower, more bounding charge, as if he meant to land on the Eternal and drive him into the earth. Gilgamesh smiled and began to time his maneuver. When the boar’s hind legs left the ground for his last bound, Gilgamesh stopped short and pulled his right arm back. The boar landed, head down, tusks safely out of reach, a half step in front. Immediately, Gilgamesh brought his fist down between the boar’s eyes, driving its head into the turf.

The beast’s momentum brought its body flipping over its head, so Gilgamesh ducked and hopped aside to let the bulk hurl past. As soon as the mass settled to the ground, he came down with his right again, this time below one eye socket, splitting the skull of the boar. Two more punches and beast was unconscious, though still heaving breath. Only then did Gilgamesh retrieve his sword. He found space between two ribs, pressed the point in and stopped the great creature’s heart. He did not want to mar the meat too much.

He sheathed his sword and tossed the boar’s carcass across one shoulder. Then he set out to track another. Three more times that day, Gilgamesh fought a giant boar bare-handed and each time he killed his prey with a different maneuver. With darkness nearing, he tied their hind legs together in pairs so he could carry two on each arm. Then he rose into the air with them and flew back across the steppes, across the sea and across the Fertile Crescent, landing unseen in the plain facing the north gate of Uruk.

Leaving his kill there, he walking to the gate and instructed the guard to take carts and retrieve meat for the feast. Once inside the city, he called the palace priests and told them to make preparations. Then he returned to his throne and rested, drinking honeyed wine and watching the palace retinue set out the great tables and hang the ceremonial tapestries and garlands. From the courtyard immediately outside his porch, he could smell the great fires they raised and the roasting of the boar’s flesh.

For seven days the people of Uruk feasted and danced and feasted and sang and feasted and slept and then feasted again. As the meat began finally to run out, Gilgamesh recalled that he had left his javelins on the Kazakh steppes. He hated to see the people’s celebration end, so he bade them continue and walked off alone. Out of sight, he again flew north, retrieved his javelins and quickly used each of them to fell a half dozen large deer. These he tied into a bundle and carried south on his back.

The feast continued and Gilgamesh was glad. The people of Uruk were so thankful for the bounty and were struck by the large mound of bones and horn that remained when the feast had finally ended. A court sculptor among them called for a stylus and a fresh tablet of soft clay. He sketched the design for a heroic column built of bone and antler, crowned with a ring the eight great tusks of the boar turned up toward the sky.

And so in the following weeks, the people of Uruk raised a narrow tower of sunbaked clay brick and wove the bones into a continuous sheath around it. When they set the crown of tusks, they baked a single marker tablet to set at the base of the column. The cuneiform characters read “Great Gilgamesh, Feeder of the People.”

The screen resolved to black and immediately Gilgamesh threw up his hands.

“What of it? If it is of this I am judged, I am proud to own it. I fed the people when the harvest did not supply their feasting. Saw you not how they loved me for it?”

The screen shimmered again and restored the image of the laborers of Uruk gathered in the central courtyard, hard at work on the monument. Then the image was replaced by an interior of a nearby granary, mostly empty. Then another, also under filled. Then an image of Gilgamesh striding away later, on a journey to the East. Then scenes of the people of Uruk wilting into privation, then starvation. Then the image of the scales, settling further down in judgment of the Eternals.

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The Eternals - Judgment of the Fifth Host, ch. 8

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All main characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics. This is a story of the Bronze Age Eternals.

Previous chapters are arranged in sequence on my blog.

It has been over a month since I posted a chapter so here's a recap:

The Fifth Host of the Celestials has gone out into the universe, one to each planet where they have experimented with the evolution of races. They are seeking to judge the results of their experiments. Since previous Hosts have judged the Deviants and humans, the Fifth Host has put the Eternals on trial. After transporting them to the South Pole, the Celestial has presented evidence of their failure from various points in history. Last chapter, Eros (Starfox) spoke in the Eternal's defense, but only made things worse. Now the evidence phase of the trial continues.

Chapter Eight

Hawaii, 1989

When the screen resolved again, it showed another pair of bright eyes. This time, they were the laughing eyes of Khoryphos. As they penetrated his vision and took on his perspective, the Eternals saw the neck of a guitar and felt their fingers forming rich chords on the fret board. The tones rang out and blended with the sound of rushing waves.

Khoryphos was at the top of a white sand beach, seated on a blanket under the shade of a broad palm. Gathered around him, tourists in loud shirts and bathing trunks sat or stood on the sand, floral colored leis around their necks. Some were humming or clapping along with the music; all were smiling, their eyes locked on Khoryphos. Just the way he liked it. Today's act: beach bum troubadour.

Last night, in a fashionable coffee house in town center of Waikiki he had been a soulful, arty singer-songwriter, sharing his tender pain and slender hopes with the twenty-somethings who hung rapt on his every note. The night before, in a roadhouse on the coast of Washington, he had roared out rockabilly and made the local workmen and their dates scream for more. The night before that, he had held the host of Olympia in thrall with lyre and poetry. Wherever he performed, eyes and ears focused on Khoryphos .

Today, he was Corey the Comber and sang the praises of margaritas by the surf. It was a scene of simple pleasure and relaxation, spoiled only by the nearby older man who kept a portable radio propped on the towel beside him. He had been there before Corey tuned up and would not turn his talk shows down, even when the prettiest young lady in the crowd asked him. To tweak him, Khoryphos was making up a song with the refrain “Don’t tell me no bad news/to give me the beach blues/the surf is too perfect today.” The crowd was starting to join in on the second chorus, when the radio barked a little louder.

“Attention! This is an emergency message of the coastal early warning system. This is NOT a test. Repeat: this is NOT a test.”

Everyone turned toward the radio. The grouch took on a satisfied look and made a show of turning up the volume so all could hear.

“This is an emergency message of the coastal early warning system. Off shore sensors have identified seismic or volcanic activity in the ocean due south of the Hawaiian Islands. Major tidal events, including the possibility of a tsunami, are expected on the southern coast of all islands within 30 minutes. All residents and visitors to tidal areas should seek higher ground immediately. This is NOT a test. Major tidal events, including the possibility of a tsunami, are expected on the coast of all islands within 30 minutes.”

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A few moments of screaming and flying sand later, Khoryphos stood alone on the beach. There was no reason to keep up the Corey image, so his form shimmered a moment and then revealed his suit of reddish-gold. A light-sky blue sash wrapped his waist and draped over his right shoulder, bound at his left hip with a blue and gold medallion of an inverted Omega sign. The acoustic guitar shimmered too, reappearing as a gold-finished lute. Then Khoryphos spread his arms, began to levitate and cast the lute into the air. As he streaked out over the ocean, it disappeared.

Covering miles in moments, Khoryphos saw nothing but level waters ahead of him. But he was not fooled by this, knowing that a tsunami only rose when the depth of the water lessened near the shore. Using the same telekinetic ability that carried him through the air, he swept probes through the water far ahead of him, feeling for the shock wave coursing through the deep ocean.

Sensing the approach of the leading edge, Khoryphos dove straight down and plunged to the ocean floor. Covered with loose sand and gravel, the bottom he stood on appeared smooth and solid. But he knew that was illusory as well, any spot could mask a rift or fissure filled with loose material. He had to risk firing blind if he wanted to create a counter shock that would extinguish the approaching tsunami.

He cut loose with the full strength of his eye-beams, tearing into the sea floor at an angle to send back a resisting wave. But the moment he did so, he knew his luck had failed. The floor under his left leg split open and he fell on his side with the leg down the narrow fissure. As he fell, his eye-beams were pulled off target, sweeping uselessly through the swirling water. With the pressure off the ocean floor, the fissure shifted again, closing on Khoryphos’ leg.

Little harms an Eternal, but the full geologic force of the plates of the sea floor is powerful enough. Khoryphos’ leg was entirely crushed. The pain was blinding, but worse was the thought that he had failed to stop the tsunami. The counter wave he created would blunt its force, but not nearly stop it.

Stealing himself, Khoryphos turned his eye-beams on his own hip, just below his sash. He severed his leg, regained his orientation and streaked through the water back toward the shore. The pain remained intense, but Khoryphos knew his limb would regenerate with time. He had to try again.

This time he had to sit on the bottom, for he couldn’t balance sufficiently on one leg to make an accurate cut. Since he couldn’t make a very sharp cut without disrupting his own position, he had to shoot a gently oblique beam into the ocean floor, cutting harder and deeper to make a sufficient counter wave from the decreased angle. This time the floor held beneath him.

When he finished cutting, he reached out with his probing teke into the waters ahead of him. He could feel the leading edge of the tsunami dissipate against the counter wave. Then, in the true test, he felt the full force of the approaching shock wave hit. The colliding forces pushed an immense water spout into the air above where they met. But the tsunami was turned back and its full force spread out into the open ocean.

Khoryphos rose to the roiling surface and began to skim lazily back over the water, toward the islands. He took his time and when he reached the surf he saw the tourists returning to the beach. Part of him wanted to rejoin them as Corey, but the effort of manifesting a false leg was more than he felt up for. Better to loll in the waves, regenerate and watch the fun from a distance.

The scene turned black, and then the scales again glowed through. They were tipped against the Eternals. For an instant the scale rose, then immediately fell again.

“How?” cried Khoryphos. “Did you not see? I saved the coasts of Hawaii. Who can count the lives and livings that I saved?”

The scale shimmered and again the scene of the water spout filled the black. The image swept over the ocean surface to the south, then dove again to the bottom, where another great fissure opened up. The forces unleashed were immense. The Eternals gasped as they saw another tsunami sweep off toward the small islands in the south Pacific. The inhabitants there had no warning system to send them toward higher ground. The Celestial displayed destruction that made Khoryphos and his companion turn their eyes away. The scale reappeared and fell still more.

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The Eternals - Judgment of the Fifth Host, ch. 7

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All main characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics. This is a story of the Bronze Age Eternals.

Previous chapters are arranged in sequence on my blog.

Chapter 7

South Pole, Present Day

The images of Phastos and Kingo Sunen in Japan faded from the screen projected by the Celestial. A red and white figure rose from the crowd of gathered Eternals and flew to the front. Eros remained in mid-air as he began to address the amethyst giant.

“Yes, Celestial. Yes. You have shown us tragedies, even avoidable tragedies. But consider again the words of my father, Mentor of Titan. Have events you have shown us not brought their own punishment, their own judgment of shame and pain?”

Eros spread his arms wide and reached out with this pleasure power, seeking to touch the mind of the Celestial, to soften its resolve. This was usually a force he used sparingly. But feeling no immediate response in this instance, he pushed forth as much influence as he was able. He would bring this alien to joy at the sight of the Eternals, or collapse in the effort.

“Does not Makarri mourn for the lives taken by Vlad’s evil men, both before and especially after he sought to aid them? Is Makarri any more responsible for the Impaler’s evil heart than Mentor is responsible for the Deviant genes of Thanos?”

Eros’ face tightened with the effort of his attempt to emotionally reach the huge, impassive figure. Sweat formed on his brow, his open hands curling into fists.

“Does not Phastos, the master engineer and patron of technology, mourn the destruction of a new power station? His work on this world is to give such gifts to man, not to demolish them. Is not the soil and culture of Japan, the adopted home of Kingo Sunen, dear to this heart? Did either of them form the shapes of dragons in the Earth?”

Eros’ made on final, total effort to find joy in the Celestial, and then plummeted from the air with a gasp. He crumpled onto the ice a moment, nearly losing consciousness. Then Ikaris and Thena lifted him up. With a quaking voice, Eros spoke again.

“Judge us as you judged my father. That our intentions have meaning. That our regret suffices.”

The black screen again presented the scales. They did not move.

“Celestial! This is not justice. Your own brothers, if such ties exist among you, witnessed the valor of the Eternals. Perhaps you were there yourself. When your kind last stood on his world, the globe was on the brink of self-destruction. The Soviet Union was preparing for atomic war. It was the cousins of Ikaris, the Polar Eternals led by Valkin, who worked in disguise to prevent catastrophe.

Valkin and most of his relations have left the Earth. They reside now in space – perhaps you know where precisely they are. We do not and we miss them. They took with them the remnant of the Deviant menace, freeing this world of that threat forever. While no longer with us, do not these deeds redeem the Eternal race?”

Still the scales did not move. Eros fell again to his knees, nearly spent.

“But the service of the Eternals is not just a matter of history. Sersi and Gilgamesh are here. Of them you have shown nothing. Is it because, like me, they have served with the mighty Avengers, protecting this planet from threats of all kinds. Each of us remains a part of that army of heroes, though we stand in reserve. Do you judge the Avengers in judging us?”

The screen again shimmered, resolving in an image of the grinning face of Eros. Swiftly, scenes flashed by. In each, the Titan Eternal was turning that grin upon the people he met, brightening them with pleasure, and gently moving them to his purposes. Where Eros had told the story of himself as hero, the Celestial showed the story of Eros the manipulator, the violator of wills. All went silent as another scene played out, then another.

Finally, the scales returned to view. They did not move.

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The Eternals - Judgment of the Fifth Host, ch. 6

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All main characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics. This is a story of the Bronze Age Eternals.

Previous chapters are arranged in sequence on my blog.

Chapter 6

Herr Heinrich Phastos donned a yellow hardhat and followed a group of men in hard hats and suits into the first turbine station of the new power plant. His Japanese escorts bowed deferentially to him at every opportunity, using their translator to ask him a respectfully worded barrage of technical questions. From his beginning in engineering at the largest steel mill in the Ruhr Valley in Germany, Herr Phastos had branched out into consulting in many industries - water, power, all manner of manufacturing.

So he often found himself on tours like this one, inspecting technology that was tediously rudimentary to him. It was his job to compliment its makers on their ingenuity and ‘cutting edge’ insights. Occasionally, he made a suggestion, but usually he didn’t bother. He knew his firm was being paid for validation, not actual innovation. It was boring, but running a boring round in public was a good way to conceal the fact that you are secretly the greatest technologist of the Eternals.

As they passed between buildings, the group leader stopped in alarm and pointed to the sky. An unauthorized helicopter was making a descent. Immediately, the others began to yell into their earpieces or run toward security stations. By the time the chopper was near the ground, it was ringed in my armed guards and agitated executives. But it did not appear to be corporate espionage or a terrorist attack. The flank of the chopper was lettered “Toho Films” surrounded by a field of flames and a smoky outline of a dinosaur.

The chopper touched down and a side door flew open. A man emerged dressed in Samurai garb, with long and short swords strapped behind his back. He ignored the security guards calls for him to get on his knees and, though he did not smile, he strode toward Herr Phastos with his right arm extended.

“Kingo!” Phastos exclaimed, as he gripped the warrior-figure’s hand. The lead executive motioned the guards to stand down. Phastos led the strange visitor toward his host.

“Mr. Yamasuka, may I introduce an old friend, Kingo Sunen. But you may already know him from the silver screen.” Yamasuka and Sunen exchanged bows and pleasantries. All was respectful in the moment. The power company’s objections to the film studio would be left for a more formal setting later. Herr Phastos bowed deeply to his hosts, apologized for the interruption and asked for their indulgence as he spoke to his visitor privately.

“Kingo, you’re crazy,” Phastos said as the two walked off into the power yard by themselves.

“I go where I choose, when I choose,” the other responded. He did not crack a smile, but there was a gleam in his eye. “It is rare that one of my brother Eternals joins me in Japan. When it happens, I will see him.”

“I think your film-star cover has gone to your head. Anyway, I thought you were shooting in Africa, or I would have arranged a meeting that drew a bit less attention.”

“The Saharan epic wrapped. Now I’m back with Toho, shooting Godzilla vs. the Ronin.”

“Kind of a lopsided contest.”

Kingo shook his head and scowled a little. “Irradiated Ronin. My character actually has about 30 feet on the lizard.”

“Imagine that. Care to join me for the tour? It may not be as exciting as what you’re used to…”

Suddenly, the ground began to vibrate beneath their feet. Soon, the pole towers and transformer units that filled the fenced yard in front of them were beginning to sway. Beyond the yard, in a low drainage field, they saw the ground begin to shudder and swell. Soon the surface split and a widening chasm stretched away from the two Eternals in a wavering line toward the west.

Immediately, both Phastos and Kingo took to the air, levitating across the plant facilities toward the open and shifting ground. Cover was not important now, so Phastos’ suit disappeared, revealing his blue and purple heroic garb. By the time they landed near the mouth of the chasm, a head was emerging from the earth 150 meters ahead of them. It shook off a cloud of dirt and clay, revealing a face shaped much like a panther’s, with large, gaping white eyes. Instead of fur, gray scales covered the face, with long, rigid plates hanging loosely around the mouth in a manner that suggested a thin beard.

The beast growled, a low rumble that moved the loose earth around it. Then with a grunt, it forced free its forearms, grasped both sides of the chasm with rough, black claws and pulled itself into the open air. Its neck and forearms were stocky and densely muscled, again like a panther, but covered in the same loose gray scales. Behind the shoulders, the body thinned and the scales tightened to it. The torso spanned 30 meters, forming the angular hind legs and tail of a lizard.

From the peaks of each shoulder, a thick, segmented tendril extended, like a spider’s arm. The two tendrils stretched straight out, stiffened momentarily and then bent to form two crooks in the air. Then, in a blinding flash, bat-like wings filled the space beneath the tendrils. The wings’ surface sparked and flashed like the electric arcs spanning a Tesla coil. The light from the wings showed stripes of white scales cutting down the back and tail of the creature.

Kingo Sunen’s dour expression barely changed, though his eyes narrowed slightly. “A lightning dragon.”

“Get these a lot, do you?” Phastos asked. Kingo, as usual, was not amused. He drew his long black sword and Phastos pulled free the long-handled hammer that hung from a strap across his back. Both rose to the beast’s eye level and prepared to assault it.

Before either could advance, the dragon’s white eyes glowed bright, flashing sparks. It shot bolts of lightning that struck each Eternal square in the chest. Stunned momentarily, they fell to the ground. Phastos was the first to get back on his feet. He immediately charged and struck the dragon on at knee of its left panther-leg. The blow glanced from the scales, which acted like the shields of Roman centurions gathered in the tortoise maneuver. Before he could strike again, Kingo was at the other leg, attempting to drive his sword point between the scales. The dragon reared and brought down a foot atop each of them, pressing them into the soil.

As the dragon stepped away the two shook off the dirt and exchanged a quick glance. Sharing a thought, each levitated up beneath one foreleg and began straining to lift the beast. The dragon tried to writhe free. Then, as the two Eternals grunted and unleashed their full strength, its forefeet began to rise from the ground. They lifted it up until the beast was hanging in the air beneath them like a limp cat. Then, with greater exertion, they cast it down on its back. The dragon’s landing must have registered on the Richter scale.

Without hesitation, Phastos swooped down and began to pound the dragon’s underbelly with his hammer. Kingo Sunen flew to its throat and began to slash his blade with all his might. Blue-white arcs of static electricity flew from the places their blows landed, but whether the attacks were doing any lasting damage was not clear in the cloud of topsoil and dust that surrounded them.

The lightning dragon roared like rolling thunderclaps. His white eyes narrowed and he began to beat his glowing wings. By the third stroke, the wings had stirred such a wind that gusts lifted Phastos and Kingo, hurling them across the field. They flew through the fence surrounding the power plant and triggered explosions as their bodies impacted with the housings of large transformer boxes. Alarms and failsafe warning lights triggered all over the plant. It was just the beginning.

The lightning dragon flipped over and leapt into the air. With just one more wing beat, it flew inside the fence and landed with an impact that toppled equipment sheds and outbuildings. Immediately, it began to sweep its grey- and white-scaled tail through the yard, snapping lines, uprooting overhead rigs like they were golf flags, shattering inverter and transformer units. The flashes were dazzling. Explosions overturned nearby maintenance vehicles. The dragon, wide eyed and with a higher pitched roar, drew deep breaths that pulled arcs of escaping current into its mouth.

It took several minutes for Phastos and Kingo to emerge from the wreckage and find each other into the blinding brightness. When they met up, Kingo’s face was beyond stern. It was as steely as in the climax scene of his most intense film.

“We need a plan,” he yelled. The dragon, charged with new power from the station, was shrieking in delight and searching for the two in the rubble.

Phastos nodded. “Those scales are invulnerable. We can only hope that it is weak around its eyes.”

“But what good will that do us? Get close to its face and it we’ll just get another dose of that lightning. Probably worse this time.”

“Engineering,” Phastos said with a slight grin. “Electricity runs to ground. Give me your sword and distract it. Stay as close to its eyes as you can and be ready.”

Kingo looked puzzled, but offered the hilt of his long sword to Phastos. Drawing the short sword, he levitated off to confront the dragon. Phastos too approached the beast, but he stayed on the ground, under the cover of the dust and sparks. Kingo buzzed the dragon’s face and avoided a lightning bolt by a few feet. He swept high into the air and then made a swiftly dive back at the grey bearded head. Again the lighting flashed out, a little closer this time.

Phastos used this time to get close to the right forefoot of the dragon. In a smooth movement, he flipped the sword and wedged it point down in between two scales. Then putting both his hands to his hammer, he drove the sword point down into the flesh of the creature. The dragon shrieked again, this time in pain.

The sword had not gone far, but it had set firmly in the dragon’s flesh so the next strike could fall truer. Phastos brought his hammer over his head and swung it down with all his power. A blue-white arc struck the Eternal and tossed him aside like a puppet. But the blade ran through the dragon’s foot and found purchase in the rocky soil below. The dragon tried to rear up on its hind legs to crush Phastos, but it could not lift the right foot. Then it shuddered and the white lightning of its wings flashed and began to flicker. The engineer Eternal’s gambit was working; the dragon’s power was draining safely into the earth.

Kingo Sunen saw his opportunity and alighted on the bridge of the dragon’s nose. Turning his short sword over his hand, he stabbed down into the creature’s white eye. The blade stopped for a moment when it struck the back of the socket, but Kingo put all his weight on the hilt and the blade burst through the bone. The dragon fell beside the stunned form of Phastos.

Again the images faded from the holoscreen, replaced by the tilting scales. The scales dipped further against the Eternals.

“What?” Phastos roared. “This lightning beast would have devastated cities had we not stopped it immediately. We protected many lives with this victory.”

The scales faded again, with the image of the ruined power station taking its place. Then the image returned of the lightning dragon hanging in the air, carried by the two Eternals. This time, though, they did not throw it down. They carried it out over the sea, leaving the power station and its crew safe behind them. The resuming battle faded back into the image of the scale, falling. Then the screen went black.

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The Eternals - Judgment of the Fifth Host, ch. 5

No Caption Provided

All main characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics. This is a story of the Bronze Age Eternals.

Previous chapters are arranged in sequence on my blog.

Chapter 5

The group stared up at an image of Makarri. But before long, the image focused on his face, his goggles, his open eye beneath. Each felt a strange change as the image of his eye grew to dominate their view, until their vision passed through his iris and their perceptions changed. They realized that each of them was now seeing as Makarri sees, feeling as he felt, knowing his thoughts and memories that were triggered by each sight.

Never before had he seen anything like this.

For centuries, Makarri had run in the Carpathian Mountains. The winding paths through rocky hillsides and the close, fog-filled valleys attracted him. It was only a few minutes from Olympia for him. The villages were few and scattered enough that he was rarely spotted. Even if he was, he knew the villagers were easily superstitious enough to find a legend to explain away the unaccountable red streak. Makarri knew each path and vista here.

Over the same centuries, Makarri had seen his share of battle. He had witnessed the wars of men, occasionally siding with those men whose cause appeared just to him. He had contested on the battlefields with Deviants. He knew war was never desirable, but that evil must be resisted.

He knew tribal war had come again to the Carpathians, as it did at least twice a century, filling his running paths with movements of ragged troops, their thin fur cloaks covered in dust. So he had kept away these last few months. He didn’t need to see their skirmishes. They were familiar and squalid, lacking any clear meaning.

But never had he seen anything like this.

Along the west side of one of the wider, more well-worn paths, a stout pole was planted every thirty yards. Every one was sharp on the skyward end. On every point was a black painting of gore, abuzz with flies. Dressing every pole like a nightmare flag, the body of a man, impaled. Some were headless, some handless, some opened at the gut to spill food for vultures onto the ground.

Makarri stopped just beyond the impaled figures and walked back slowly, to convince himself that what he was seeing was real. There was no mistake. The stench hung close in the valley like the fog. Makarri’s jaw and fists clenched. This kind of brutality was too much to ignore.

He knew he was nearing a village, so with a thought he assumed the figure of a wandering pilgrim. He walked slowly but resolutely down into the village. He saw eyes behind the few unshuttered windows of the thatch-roofed mud houses. The village was built around a spring-fed fountain. The only figure in the street was a washer woman filling jugs.

Makarri approached her and asked if a stranger might fill his bowl from the fountain. She eyed him a moment then stepped away to make room. When he had filled and drained the bowl twice to convince her he had been traveling, he stepped away so she could take away the jugs.

“Tell me, good lady,” Makarri said, “Where are the men of this village? The children? It is still as night here.”

Her eyes widened slightly and showed tears before she ran from the fountain, leaving her drawn water behind. Makarri watched her disappear into a house not far away. Carrying her jugs, he placed them at her doorstep then turned up a side path toward what looked like a rough chapel.

Inside he found a young man, not more than 15, wearing a priest’s robe that was clearly too large for him. When Makarri convinced him to speak, he told of Vlad, the raiding Wallachian noble who had lately come through this part of the mountains. The people of the village were Saxons and Vlad wished to end a historical Saxon claim to his rule. So his men had come to the village in force and dragged the men into the square at spear point.

The young man’s voice trailed off. Makarri told him which road he had taken to come there. The priest nodded.

“So you have seen. Even my master, Father Tadeusz, hangs there. His cassock is bloody. His cross is stolen. I was simply his altar attendant, not yet ordained. But now I wear his robe since there is no one else who knows the prayers.”

As the day drew down into dusk, Makarri learned that most of Vlad’s men had gone further east, to engage the Ottomans. A garrison of spearmen remained in the next town, patrolling the road. The surviving boys and the stout women whispered of attacking them, but no iron implement was left in the village. The Wallachian men had long spears, broad swords and shields of bronze-strapped oak.

Makarri did his best to comfort the young man, and then sat a while in thought.

“Are there no men at all?” Heavy silence.

“If you called in the square tomorrow, would the women come to you?” A nod.

The next morning, with the women and children gathered in tense quiet around them, Makarri and the young priest stood on the stone basin of the fountain. The priest introduced Makarri as a holy pilgrim, come to give them a word of comfort. Few met Makarri’s eyes as he began to speak.

“My friends, I am a poor wanderer seeking the light. But as I have sought it, I have found it. There are forces for good beyond the imagining of the evil men you have suffered from here. Today, I tell you, these vile men will be given into your hands.”

The crowd gasped and every eye locked on to the Makarri-pilgrim. The young priest lost his balance and slipped down in the crowd. When Makarri began to speak again, their eyes cast around as if they feared to be overheard. Some began to back away slowly.

“You think this is not possible. It would take a miracle. Today, I tell you, miracles will happen.”

In a red flash, Makarri was gone. The crowd screamed. Some fell to the ground. Some turned on the priest asking what new devilry this was. The poor boy was speechless. Makarri had said he would give a homily of encouragement, beg his wage and continue toward Rome.

Down the wide path, Makarri found what he was expecting. The garrison of Vlad’s spearmen was marching on patrol, nearing the village. When he had scouted them before dawn he had seen them massing and learned their direction for the day. Now he appeared before them in the road, looking like a blacksmith and waving a branding rod.

“You thought your work here was done. But Saxon men still breathe in these mountains.”

He hurled the rod at the nearest shield and turned to run, at a man’s speed, back toward the village. The spearmen gave a roar of anger mixed with excitement and chased him. Their arms ensured that they could not overtake Makarri not matter how much he held himself back.

In the square, the women and children heard the roar and soon saw Makarri running up the road, looking to them like the vanished pilgrim. They screamed when they saw the armed troop close behind him. Many fled immediately for their homes, their lives. Makarri called after them.

“Wait! I promised a miracle. Observe it.”

The young priest and the bravest of the women turned back to look. Again they saw the pilgrim disappear. There was a red flash and the arms and shields of the Wallachian patrol disappeared too. The next instant, a spear was in the hand of the young priest, broad swords in the hands of the stern women. One more red-blurred instant and the patrolmen fell flat on their backs in the path.

When Makarri looked back, the villagers were rushing forward. Each one called the name of the father, the son, the brother they had seen impaled. Makarri resumed the run he interrupted the day before, confident of today’s outcome.

When he ran by this village in the coming weeks, he was gladdened by what he saw. The villagers moved in the street. They had buried their dead and burned the impaling staffs in the square. Vlad’s main force remained in the east. The fog burned off each morning to reveal a village where hope tempered mourning. Content, Makarri began to run a different course.

The images faded in the black holoscreen. After a moment, the Eternals felt their own senses return. Ikaris’ voice boomed out.

“So, silent Celestial, you know of Makarri’s good deeds. I am pleased you acknowledge this. They are not uncommon.”

The red-helmeted Eternal stood tall, with a proud smile. The amethyst form of the Celestial made no movement or sound in response. Then the image reappeared.

It was the same wide path descending to the village. But the stakes had returned. This time there were the bodies of women. There were children. They saw a large bloody robe hanging loosely from the frame of a young man, which soon shimmered and dissolved into the image of the scale, now tipped further down against the Eternals.

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Fan poems - Moon Knight

Have you ever been SO bored in a meeting that if you didn't start playing with some writing, you were sure to find either sleep or madness? I decided to try a simple quatrain on Moon Knight, but as the meeting dragged on it turned into a sonnet:

Egyptian moon soaks any path you take,

Enveloping your tense form in white light,

As you prefer it. Let approaching night

Marauders see you, consider the stakes.

Egyptian steel cut into curves for flight,

Moons in your hands as if you were the god;

Gilt ankhs cross in your hands as if you hold

The over flowing Nile by Pharoah’s right.

Egyptian idol wrapped in silken folds

Reminds you of the task to serve and shield

late travelers, weak ones; to try to wield

The fist that strikes from moon-bleached shroud.

You hold the thought while tortured brain withstands:

The death conquering power, in your hands.

**********

Then a couple days later, it was a dull conference call. Same theme, but in free verse:

Moon Knight

Bathed by moon,

your thoughts attuned

to the ancient voice,

you wrap the traveler,

in the folds

of your unseen cape.

Ankh of gold,

you hold your blows

in reserve, await

the moment foes

commit beyond return.

Stalking, striking,

dealing such justice

as can be had.

Deliberate,

too controlled

to be mad.

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The Eternals - Judgment of the Fifth Host, ch. 4

No Caption Provided

All main characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics. This is a story of the Bronze Age Eternals.

Previous installments: Prelude, ch.1, ch.2 , ch.3

Chapter 4

Ajak stood among large stones on a mountain top in the high Andes. He wore the form-fitting garb of an Olympian Eternal, plum wine colored with stripes of gold, with a golden belt and boots. His mid-length brown hair fluttered in the breezes around his dark glasses. In all directions, the rocky peaks stretched out to the limits of sight.

On both sides of an open field, muscled workers wearing small waist-coverings over their bronzed skin were swinging picks or dragging skids of stone set on log rollers. They were terracing the sides of the mountain top.

Ajak struck a bare rock-face with his fist and the surface cracked. Then holding out his hands, he caused the largest chuck of stone to levitate into the air in front of him. Opening one palm, he pulled to himself a stone ax and set to work, fashion the floating stone into a carved block. Ajak stepped back and surveyed a nearby terrace, found a recently cleared space and levitated the block into position to form the base of a new section of wall.

The Celestial’s images then began to flash a time sequence. Before all the Eternals’ the magnificent mountain top city of Machu Pichu formed, with gates and stairways, aqueducts and plazas. The Temple of Three Windows. The Temple of the Sun. All new and shining in cloud-gauzed mountain skies.

The image of the scales emerged, superimposed on the city, and the pans tipped slightly, dipping down on the right side. The scales glowed burning bright and disappeared, leaving only the image of a new structure – The Temple of the Condor.

Before this temple stood Ajak and a new sequence of images showed the Incans bringing him gifts. First, a plum wine cape with a golden clasp. Then a suit of their best-forged mail. Finally, they came to him on their knees and held up to him a golden helmet, with a long, ornamented beak over the eyes. Its beak ended in a golden disc to represent the sun around which the condor soared. It had two crests plumed with golden feathers.

Ajak grinned and took up the helmet. Setting it on his head, he strode regally into the Temple and sat on a carved-stone throne inside. Behind the throne, carved in low relief inside a circle in a smooth face of stone, was a profile image of Ajak wearing the condor helm, his limbs set in an angular dance.

Images flashed to show Ajak the Condor-God set in stone on the walls of village temples us and down the Andes. They showed Ajak soaring over the people, the gold feathers of his crests gleaming and waving, his smile bright with satisfaction.

Again the scales super-imposed over the scene. The pans rocked, evened out and then dipped down on the left side. The scales darkened to an ominous purple glow, then disappeared again.

Ajak pushed back through the crowd of his kin and stepped out on the ice before the Celestial.

“Great Celestial! What you show is true. While I had set out just to aid them, I was seduced by the worship of the beautiful Inca people. In my pride, I became their god, losing interest in furthering their culture and contenting myself with their offerings and admiration. It is an episode of shame.

But I have paid the price for this error, as all the Celestials must know. The Third Host returned centuries ago and fought with the Asgardian gods and other deities of this world. They did not overlook me, but humbled me before the people. They imprisoned me in the resurrection chamber that held me until the day the Fourth Host arrived[1].”

Ajak crossed his golden-braced arms over his chest and bowed deeply.

“Great Celestial, is not my term of centuries in prison sufficient judgment? I make myself a god to earthmen no more.”

A mirror image of the contemporary Ajak appeared on the black screen. It stood still for a moment, then his Incan helmet and armor began to glow. It shimmered and disappeared. Then a blast of force struck Ajak and threw his backward. Ikaris raised a hand and levitated his hurtling form above the group.

His elaborate outfit was gone. Ajak hung limply over them in the simpler garb of an Olympian. The scales returned to the screen, tilted against the Eternals. Then the screen swirled again and a red form began to appear.

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The Eternals - Judgment of the Fifth Host, ch. 3

No Caption Provided

All main characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics. This is a story of the Bronze Age Eternals.

Previous installments: Prelude, ch.1, ch.2

Chapter 3

“Scales?!” Sersi cried. “What is the meaning of this? Where have you taken us?”

The Eternals stood on a wide sea of ice. A moment ago, they were falling from the clear skies over Olympia. Now, they stood arranged in neat ranks facing due south. Directly before the first row of them stood the gleaming purple feet of a Celestial.

The figure towered over them like a skyscraper carved from ten ton blocks of amethyst. The smooth arcs of its arms, legs and featureless head gleamed and sparkled in the angled light from the sun that hung low to the northern horizon behind them.

The Celestial made no sound or movement. Instead, it projected a shifting black field before them. The field was two-thirds the height of the Celestial and wider than it was tall. In it slowly spun a single three-dimensional image, a two-pan scale with its sides in balance though they wavered slightly.

It is Ikaris who first recognized the surroundings. As a Polar Eternal, he felt at home. The feet of the space god stood squarely on the South Pole.

Sersi screamed again, “Speak, Celestial! Where are we? What is all this? We are not without power to defend ourselves and do not take manipulation lightly.”

Ikaris put his hand on her shoulder.

“We are at the South Pole,” he said with all the calm he could muster. “As far from my halls at the North as it is possible to be. What this means, I don’t know but I do know that Celestials have never spoken to the races of Earth.”

Brusquely, Ajak shouldered through the group and strode in front of Ikaris and Sersi. “To races? Never. But they speak to me. I was the Chosen, who received the word from the Third and Fourth Hosts[1].”

He moved closer to the silent Celestial. Solemnly, he lowered his face and raised his arms, palms outward.

“Hail to you, Celestial of Space! We, the reflections of your image, await the meaning of your new mission to this world!”

Nothing happened. Ajak raised his arms higher, bowed his head lower.

“Welcome, Great Celestial, descended among us! Had we known of your coming, the ceremonial pylon would be raised. Speak your will, that I may tell my brothers and sisters.”

Again, nothing happened. The scale spun slowly before them. The Celestial was silent.

“Great Celestial! I gave voice to your predecessor, Arishem of the Fourth Host. Tell me your name. Where is the great ship in which Celestials tour the galaxies? Where are the others of your host? We are eager to know your mind.”

More silence.

“Hah! Chosen no more,” spat Sersi. “And you’re lucky to be spared their company. How dare they sweep us away! How dare they draw us from the Uni-Mind without warning!”

Khoryphos strummed a soothing chord and answered Sersi.

“Celestials dare nothing. To dare, you must have some fear. The Celestials see nothing to fear here. If I understand the sign before us right…”

“What do you know of them?” Ajak asked. “I shall read their signs.”

Khoryphos ignored him. “If I understand it right they come in judgment, as Mentor had warned.”

When Khoryphos spoke the word, the scales brightened, then began to shimmer and fade. Soon after the black screen too faded, like a storm cloud blown off by the icy wind. The Celestial stood silent.

And so he remained, with the Eternals debating at his feet. Ajak had stalked back into the middle of the group and said nothing. Some proposed defending themselves by force, but given the power of a Celestial this effort would most likely be wasted. Others proposed negotiation, but the figure’s silence made it unclear how that could happen. Finally, Sersi’s impatience overtook her again.

“I won’t remain here, freezing and foolhardy, simply because this purple mute intends it!”

She began to levitate up and away from the plain and several others rose up with her. At the point that they were above the head of the Celestial, they turned toward Olympia and began to streak away.

BWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHMMMMMMMM

The massive horn blast sounded and the flying group vanished. Then all the Eternals vanished, only to reappear on the plain in the very same spots where the Celestial had put them initially. Before any could speak, the black screen reappeared.

It showed all the Eternals levitating as Sersi’s group had just done, and beginning to fly away. Behind them, the image of the scale reappeared, glowed like amethyst flames and the left pan of the scale fell. In the next instant, all the images of the Eternals seized up in flight, as if grasped by invisible hands. They writhed and shrieked in pain for a few seconds before they were torn to particles and destroyed.

The screen went blank again. Ikaris turned to his people, raising in the air just enough for all to see him.

“The message is clear. To leave this judgment is to be judged. The punishment of judgment appears to be our extinction.” He turned to face the Celestial. “What would you have us do, space god?”

The screen shifted, swirling away the scales into a field of moving black clouds. Slowly, a new image appeared.

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The Eternals - Judgment of the Fifth Host, ch. 2

No Caption Provided

All main characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics. This is a story of the Bronze Age Eternals.

Previous installments: Prelude, ch.1

Chapter Two

At the appointed time, the full body of Earth’s remaining Eternals gathered on the marble tiles of the courtyard in the center of Olympia. Karkas, their loyal Deviant friend, stood with them. The pure cerulean sky overhead, the sunlight glinting off the polished white of the columns and temples suggested they gathered for a festival or a day of sport.

Little could be further from the truth. Ikaris walked to the center of the group and climbed on the riser of a statue honoring his father, Zuras. He raised his hands for silence.

“My brother and sister Eternals, Polar and Olympian though we may be, we form one family. But faced by the possible threat of the approaching Celestial, we have not been of one purpose. If we do not come together and stand before the space god united, we may come to serious harm.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us join our souls and minds into the pure rapport that we have sought so rarely in our centuries on Earth. Let us rise, open to each other and meld. Let us form now the Uni-Mind!”

Ikaris levitated into the air and held his arms out wide, palms open. He began to rise in a slow spiral. A moment later, Thena followed, then Sersi, Khoryphos, Makarri. Soon all the Eternals were spiraling higher and higher over the courtyard like a cyclone of brightly colored bodies. Their faces, lately masks of anxiety, relaxed into broad smiles, radiant expressions. The call of each other’s spirits to merge filled them with pure joy.

Faster and faster they turned, until their forms became hard to distinguish. They became a solid swirl of color, first blue, then red, finally brightening toward gold. As the gold spread, the swirling figure appeared to solidify, to make a form. First it took the shape of an egg. Then the egg split like a single cell down the center to form two ovoid shapes pressed together. As it formed, the spin of the shape slowed, the figure became more stable.

The gold began to glow as the first folds began to appear on the surface. It was becoming a brilliant golden brain.

BWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHMMMMM

A sound like the horns of an army of angels shook the ground and pulsed the air of Olympia. The golden brain flexed and quivered in the air.

BWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHMMMMMMMM

The second blast was louder than the first. Columns toppled in the courtyard. The mountains surrounding Olympia shook. Karkas, left on the ground below, fell to the ground clutching his head in agony.

Slowly at first, the shallow folds forming in the golden brain began to separate. Folds of each hemisphere fell away from each other. The Uni-Mind was collapsing before it could be fully formed. As they separated one from the other, the folds split in turn, revealing the individual Eternals.

In a moment, a shower of bodies fell from two thousand feet in the air, accelerating toward the hard marble courtyard. Then, as the first Eternals neared impact, the horn blasted a third time. All the falling figures vanished.

*

Days Earlier

The feet of the amethyst Celestial stood silently on Titan for enough days that Mentor no longer monitored it on a surface viewer. It had landed on the moon, raising a cloud of dust and shaking the halls and chambers underground. It had not moved since. For the first two days, the moon’s computer mind ISAAC, the Integral Synaptic Anti-Anionic Computer, had scanned and measured it, developing possible defense scenarios for Mentor to review. He had paid them no mind, knowing that if a Celestial wished to disturb the perfect order of Titan’s buried civilization, the disturbance would happen regardless of his own reaction.

It did not disturb them. It just stood motionless as if transfixed by the beauty of the view of Saturn and the other moons which dominated the sky above it. As if it mediated on some perfect truth, which even the achievement of Titan was not fit to receive. Mentor glanced at its dark, glinting form perhaps once a day and waited.

Mentor had still been called A’Lars when he last saw a Celestial come to his world. He lived on Earth then, among the Olympian Eternals with his brother Zuras. He had seen the Celestials of the Second Host reject the Deviant race and observed as they destroyed Lemuria.

Before the Fourth Host came to judge the human race, A’Lars had left the Earth. It was better he come here, to serene Titan, to mentor the surviving followers of his uncle, the defeated Titan Uranos. Since that time, he had showed the Titanian Eternals the more peaceable way of his father Kronos. The wisdom of Mentor, implemented by the perfect efficiency of ISAAC, had turned Titan into a hidden paradise of calm and order.

That calm had reasserted itself under the silent feet of the Celestial. So it came as a shock one morning when a wave of sound like a fleet of foghorns mixed with the drone of a thousand factories pulsed once through the halls. Like all the other Eternals of Titan, Mentor immediate looked to the nearest holographic display of the face of ISAAC. In its place glowed the unreadable purple face of the Celestial.

“What would you have of us, great visitor?” Mentor asked. “All the resources of Titan stand ready to make you welcome.”

Diplomacy had little effect on the Celestial. It made no further sound but created before Mentor a black space in the air, roughly oval and slightly taller than he was. Mentor stood before it like a child before a blackboard. The next moment, a three-dimensional image appeared in the blackness. An ancient two-pan weighing scale. Mentor recognized the symbolism. If the Celestial wished to speak in images, he would accept that and make the best of it.

“You wish to judge us, great visitor. Some might find this presumption, but I can understand it from your viewpoint. Your actions created Eternals, humans and Deviants in this solar system. You wish to know if these experiments are worthy to continue.”

In the blackness, the scale glowed brightly then dissolved into shadow. Mentor took this to acknowledge the accuracy of his guess. He smiled and continued.

“Please, great visitor, observe our world here beneath the surface of Titan. Access the database of our servant ISAAC and learn all there is to know of us. We are proud of the tranquility, knowledge and advancement we have brought about here.”

The Celestial remained silent as ever. For several minutes the black holoscreen was vacant. Then slowly a figure formed from blue and yellow mists.

Thanos.

Mentor bowed his head and thought for a moment. Brushing back a tear, he raised his head and nodded.

“Yes, visitor, this is the place that gave birth to Thanos. But he resides here no longer.”

The Thanos image raised its right arm. The Infinity Gauntlet appeared. Mentor watched his wayward son wish instant death upon half the lives in the universe.

“Great visitor, my son Thanos was not properly the product of Titan. He was the product of the Deviant gene that led to his mutation. He left us because he was ultimately not one of us, no matter how much we tried to help him. An earlier Celestial Host judged the Deviants and destroyed their home in Lemuria. This judgment is for Thanos as well. You need not judge the Titanian Eternals in his name

Though he is not of us, we have already paid for his actions. Thanos killed the light of Titan, Sui-San. His mother. My wife. The co-creator of all the good you see here. No day passes that we do not mourn and regret our failure with him, and what it has cost. Let this penance be enough for us.”

The black screen faded to emptiness and for a long time the Celestial made no sound or image. Mentor stood still before it, his hands turned out to beg the space god for mercy. Eventually, the Celestial’s face faded and ISAAC’s face returned to the display. The surface of Titan shook and Mentor knew the amethyst giant had left them in peace.

Mentor would contact Ikaris and tell Earth’s Eternals the Celestial was coming. He did not owe them this much, but they were family after all.

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The Eternals - Judgment of the Fifth Host, ch. 1

No Caption Provided

All main characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics. This is a story of the Bronze Age Eternals.

Previous installment: Prelude

Chapter 1

That the others would come had not concerned Ikaris. Over the next day and night, they arrived from the poles and from all points of the compass. They answered the homing call and came into the halls of Olympia. Sersi, true to form, opened the stores of Olympian wine to make sure the first night of the gathering evolved into a loud revel. Eros, as the Avenger Starfox was called in this place, needed no great encouragement to join her. His model was irresistible for most.

On the morning of the following day, Ikaris looked up at the throne of Zuras. Knowing he would soon need to speak from that seat, he meditated on how this situation had come to be. Since the transmission from Titan, he had been mulling the sort of questions not often considered among Eternals. Their life on Earth had spanned millenia, but what was its value, its meaning? Was he proud of what he and his relations had accomplished?

Ikaris shook his head to clear his mind, and looked up at the arms of the throne where the hands of his father Zuras had often rested. He wished for the presence of those hands. Had this knews come from anyone other than Zuras’ brother Mentor, he would scarcely believe it to be true. But soon, all the Eternals would face this truth with him and wonder.

He turned to survey the gathering: Olympians, Polars, Eternals who chose diaspora around the globe. Many of their brethren had retreated into space, but these remained. At the forefront stood his sister Thena, covered regally from her toes to her wrists in a suit of gold that glowed from within. As she met his gaze, she shook the long hair that matched her angular, golden headpiece. She was every bit a queen of the Eternals. The fact that she too had the strength to stand as Prime both encouraged him and threatened him a little.

Beside her, Sersi leaned on Eros, draping the green glove that covered her right arm across his shoulders, pressing a bare thigh against him now and again suggestively. Ikaris never approved of Sersi’s short, tight garb, her ludicrous low boots and long gloves, but it was the least of his problems.

Eros was dressed in red and white stretched tight over his well-muscled form, the distinctive fox head emblem on his chest matching the gold of his wrist bands. He did not appear to mind the attention, nor did he take it too seriously. When Sersi flipped the impish pointed curls of bright red hair, he gave her the slightest glimmering glance and smile. Ikaris was glad for his great strength and absolute boldness, so he overlooked Eros’ wantonness more easily.

Yes, Ikaris thought, they are an odd group: Khoryphos always carrying his lute, Kingo Sunen dressed for battle in the armies of the Shogun, Ajak outfitted like an ancient Incan god, Phaestos like a workman of a contemporary steel mill. Fortunately, he remembered, their appearance masked incredible power. He feared they would need every bit of it.

The Eternals had all gathered in the main hall to hear the full news from the Prime. A hush fell as Ikaris climbed to the throne, turned and held his hands high.

“My brothers and sisters, light of the eyes of our father Zuras, it gives me strength in this moment of foreboding to see you all gathered here in this hall. We face what could be a turning point in the history not only of our world, but all worlds. The Fifth Host of the Celestials is abroad among the stars.”

Each Eternal had heard the gravity in the summons they recently received from Ikaris, but none of them was prepared for this news. Heads shook and brows furrowed. Voices erupted all through the hall. The Prime Eternal held his hands up again.

“You are right to express your shock. It nearly beggars belief. But I assure you that I had word late last night directly from Titan. The computer ISAAC has recorded the last days there and you can view the images if you wish. As we poured wine here, a Celestial was rising from the surface of Titan and beginning his transit to Earth. Apparently, his mission on Mentor’s moon is completed.”

Sersi spoke up first, her tone derisive but honeyed as ever.

“And what mission could this cosmic visitor have there? Or anywhere? The Celestials created the races of Earth in the mists of history, but they have rarely been seen since. What’s the point of coming back?”

Kingo-Sunen answered, his eyes black under his samurai helmet. “As you yourself say, Sersi, the Celestials are not quick to busy themselves. We can be sure they come for a reason.”

Ajak stepped forwarded, the feathers and gold of his Inca headpiece flashing. “Who summoned them? The Fourth Host came to Earth only when Ikaris triggered the ancient beacon[2].”

Ikaris’ face remained grave. “They were not summoned. They come because they so choose. The news from Titan is that they come this time not to observe or experiment. They come to judge. The Fifth Host has gone out to all corners of the universe. One Celestial comes to all the planets where they have intervened in the evolution of races. They come to see if each race is of value, or whether certain experiments should come to an end.”

This time the noise in the crowd was overwhelming. Ikaris roared them to order with great exertion.

Gilgamesh raised his thick right arm and called out “Can the Eternals, with all our power, seem so little to them that they could think of our end?”

*

Light from the nearing sun glowing on his head and shoulders, the amethyst figure soared into the field of tumbling rock that stood as a gateway to the orbit of the red planet. Although some of these islands in space were of sufficient size to house races, none had atmosphere or the building blocks for life. Earlier Hosts had seen no cause to add them. Nor had the races in this system seen benefit in staking down settlements in such hard places.

Following the straightest possible course through the rocks, the figure soon came to the edge of open space. But at the last moment, he veered toward a vast, oblong rock, as many times the length of his own body. As he neared it, he put one arm forward, found a balance point and began to push it free of the gravity that determined its orbit.

Once in open space, he shifted the great rock so that he pushed from the narrowest point, the length of it stretching out before him. Dust from the surface trailed out past and behind him. An observer from the Trilogy might have thought himself the discoverer of an unnamed comet.

The amethyst giant propelled the rock until it was within the red planet’s orbit and beyond the pull of its gravity. Then he sent it spinning on its own course and resumed his path to the Trilogy planet.

*

“Enough!” Ikaris roared. “We have squabbled for hours. The meaning of the Celestial’s visit is not becoming any clearer to us. Neither are we any closer to deciding a course of action.”

The crowd of Eternals stilled, some nodding, some still too hot with anger or confusion to recognize Ikaris’ words were true.

“What then?” Khoryphos asked, striking a wistful chord on his lute. “If only great Zuras were here to give us his wisdom.”

Ikaris moved in front of the throne of Zuras and sat down solemnly, taking his place as Prime. “The Eternals have one sure way to become of one mind. You should each retire to your rooms and meditate on our future, calming your minds in preparation. In two hours time, we meet in the courtyard to form the Uni-mind.

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