PROLOGUE

'The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.'

- H. P. Lovecraft

Year: 2194

Location: unknown

'Am I dead?'

The bald man named David Sprenger floated around naked in a bottomless rip in time and space. Everything was black around him, save for some strange purple glow streaming past him, but that might have been an hallucination.

For a moment he felt sorry for professor Connlan, the man he had convinced to help him on his mad journey through the gateway and into the alien temple. 'He's probably dead by now,' He mourned. 'Slaughtered by the guard, no doubt about it.' And his still unborn child would be fatherless. What had Katrina wished to call it again? Jay? 'Suit yourself.' Sprenger had thought. 'Such an ordinary name for a child with such extraordinary parents.'

That horrible, merciless guard…

Feeling confused and vulnerable, the man blinked repeatedly to try and get a better look at his surroundings. There was something else here, infinite, unspeakable. Not even the most naïve man in existence could have denied sensing it. He heard some kind of whispering… Several raspy little female voices coming out of nowhere spoke with an eerily calm tone and at exactly the same time.

'Poor little sapient…'

'What? Who's there? What- Where am I?' Ignoring the obvious hints of despair in the man's tone, the ageless voices replied with their own question: 'We wonder… How did you get here?' At first Sprenger had no idea how to respond. Then suddenly he decided he was just going to have to confess his sins. He didn't think the voices would understand much of what he was stammering, but he didn't care. 'I wanted to- I stole something. I stole the sphere from the temple, and then I tried to destroy the guard that followed…'

'Really? The temple in the Archaic Realm? What went wrong?' The voices sounded amused rather than concerned, and Sprenger almost felt like he deserved it. He deserved to be mocked after what he had done.

'I commanded the sphere's energies to destroy him. But, but it didn't work!' He added quickly. 'Then he aimed his right hand at me, with that revolting glove… And now-' 'And now you are here.' The voices interrupted. 'Are you not glad you found us?' Sprenger hesitated before answering. 'I… I suppose it's better than to be destroyed. Right?'

'But of course it is better. Your flesh is not of much use when it is completely vaporized, now is it? You are very lucky to have arrived here intact, that is highly unusual. Perhaps it was because of the sphere.' The voices were ringing in his head and somehow hurting him all over. Covering his ears didn't help at all. 'What do you want from me?' Sprenger heard himself whisper. For some reason Sprenger was at this moment very glad to be unable to see much. The less he perceived of this… thing, talking to him with its many voices, the better.

'About the guard you tried to destroy… You say when you used the power stored inside of the sphere, the life-source of Chaos, it failed to destroy him?'

'…Yes.' Sprenger answered slowly. There was a short pause.

'But of course. The former Harbinger is the one responsible. We are unsure of his motives, but we know it must be the one. His Archon heritage protected him from the energies of the sphere, and then he must have sacrificed you to satiate his gauntlet's hunger, which brought you here.' Sprenger was unsure how the voices could know all these things, about the temple's location, about the sphere's true name, even about the guard. Then the voice became deep, booming and inhuman. The tranquility was replaced with fury, and Sprenger could almost taste the unbridled hatred, the loathing.

'He has exploited our energies for the last time, it is HE who should be sacrificed. We will show him what a fool he was for trying to control us directly...'

Sprenger did not know what the voices were talking about, he was merely glad that his clothes were still back on Earth or he would have soiled them just then. There was another short pause, and Sprenger thought he could almost make out a deep sigh. An appropriate sigh, he thought, for the voices were back to normal again after it. Or, at least a lot calmer again, certainly not normal.

'Unfortunately we cannot enter your reality to obtain him, not without your help that is.' Sprenger suddenly felt a lot more confident. 'Sounds to me like a great opportunity to get out of here, but also to get even with that guard.' He thought.

'Alright then, I'll help you capture him if you send me back.'

'Ah, you misunderstand us. We are not sending you back.' Sprenger's confidence vanished without a trace. 'You're not?!'

'At least not in your current form, that would be impossible since your mind is trapped here forever. Your body should suffice though.' The words "trapped" and "forever" were enough to make Sprenger's heart sink. 'Ironically, despite his arrogance and continued efforts to thwart our plans, the former Harbinger has helped us greatly today. You see, ever since he forged that gauntlet, he's been sacrificing mortals so he can steal our energies. But he was always clever enough not to overdo it, so we'd never get the chance to grow strong enough. But now, thanks to his kind donation of living mortal flesh – your flesh – we are one step closer to, changing the universe that you are from. Eternally.'

Sprenger began to shake uncontrollably and tried very hard not to think of what the voices really meant by "changing". 'We've been planning to do this for a very long time now.' The voices continued. 'Longer than a mortal like yourself could possibly fathom. Let's see… First of all, you will not need these anymore…'

It happened faster and more brutally than Sprenger could have ever dared imagine. 'AAARGH!' Sprenger howled, and he writhed in pain as tentacles removed the contents of his eye sockets and tore off his nose. His hands were stretched out and horribly mutilated. His lower body was ripped to pieces and a long tentacle sprouted from the wound around his waist that grew rapidly, all the while pulling down his intestines. For a split second it made him look like some kind of horrifying mermaid straight from a crazed man's nightmare. His spine and skull were pulled up, stretched and twisted in ways unimaginable. Sprenger screamed in agony as his skin became pallid and started rotting. The echoing cries of horror sounded less human and more excruciating every second, yet no one was there to hear them.

The tentacles opened up his skull from behind and pulled out the brains, which finally killed him. The empty cranium was filled up with tentacles and the skull was repaired. His back and long neck were filled up as well, resembling a monstrous humpback. The wounds all over his body began to heal and the gashes and cuts were closed, including what was left of his nostrils. Even though it was created using the once perfectly normal body of David Sprenger, no one in their right mind would willingly call this horrifying thing human anymore.

'Good, good! A new Harbinger has risen. With its help, the former Harbinger will be returned to us. And he will help us grow, whether he likes it or not...

To be continued.