A few moments before Time's End
Time's Guardian looked out upon the bleak, barren, rocky landscape. There were no stars any more and the small Celestial body that he now stood upon was the last planet.
It should have been totally dark but a few mystical fires still burned on various parts of the planetoid, the last remnants of the final battle. There was no strength in the fires and they would soon die.
Time's Guardian's ancient adversary, Fate, looked at him silently from across the planetoid. The final facet of a struggle nearly as old as time itself had played out. There was nothing left to say.
Ultimately this struggle had transcended even that between good and evil.
Fate was a component of the original forces of creation. An entity with a strong pre-conception as to exactly how events should play out. Time's Guardian had been a creation of all of the contemporary great powers and civilisations when the Multiverse was yet very young. A powerful counterweight to Fate.
Still, the end time was nigh upon them, and far, far sooner than it might have been.
The great Guardian of Time thought to himself that there was no bleaker, no more hopeless, no lonelier place than here on this barren rock watching the very last flows of time. Soon now even the small planetoid would disintegrate and even Time's Guardian himself would cease to exist.
Fate itself prepared to dissipate into the nothingness of end time. Yet even now Time's Guardian readied for one last throw of the dice. A totally unexpected final gambit.
Husbanding his final reserves of energy, the great protector of the time stream had just enough in reserve to summon forth one of the great powers of the past.
Yet which ally to call forth? who to summon against Fate itself?
Time's Guardian reviewed the history of the Multiverse, considered all of its great powers.
He who was called forth from the past would need to be strength and power personified. Yet strength and power alone would not be enough. Courage would need to be his middle name. More he would need to intimately understand the nature of time and the role that Fate and Time's Guardian had played in that. More still the entity called forth would need to have been warned at some time in the past of just this contingency.
One name stood out among them all. The mighty Thor, God of Thunder, Son of Odin, one time liege lord of all of mighty Asgard. The only other question? At which point, in his immensely long lifetime, to seek out the great Asgardian? Not as a callow and inexperienced youth, nor as a headstrong young adult. Nor at the other end of Thors life as an ageing, venerable adviser to the mighty Magnison. It would have to be at the very zenith of his great life.
So it came to pass that as his final act, the great Guardian of Time brought forth from the past the inconceivably powerful entity known as Thor of Asgard.
Millions of years ago, in the great hall of Asgard, Time's Guardian had met with the mighty Thor, and spoken to him, warned him of this very moment. As the Guardian had also done with certain other great powers.
Thus the mighty Thor was not at all surprised by this turn of events.
Thor knew well the nature of Fate and had long ago fought alongside Time's Guardian in the last two of the inconclusive inter-temporal wars. Thor even had his own personal triumph of sorts over the lesser though still formidable Asgardian fates.
As the mighty Thor looked across the planetoid at the physical form assumed by Fate, the great Time's Guardian, his last reserves gone, dissipated into the nothingness of end time.
As Thor strode towards Fate, the realisation dawned on him. In the whole history of our Multiverse had any entity faced a more daunting, more impossible task than that now confronting him?
On the very cusp of Time's End, the Asgardian god had become the de facto protector of what little remained of time. The new Time's Guardian and the only still living entity capable of challenging Fate's now nearly complete designs.
The origins of Fate were known to the mighty Thor. At times dawn during the original act of creation of the very first Universes the creator split into its component parts, good, evil and fate. It was not an equal split nor was it an entirely clean split but these elements of the force of creation were never again reunited.
This close to End Time, no Celestial means existed by which time might be measured. Nor would any instrumentation work here. Further Thor knew that the normal laws of time travel and time measurement did not apply here.
Yet for Thor a measure still existed. The beat of his Asgardian heart. Even End Time could not distort that.
Fate did not need to kill the mighty Thor, he had only to delay the Thunder God for a few hundreds of heartbeats and the End Time would come.
The only thing in Thors favour was that he had known that this time would come and had been able to prepare for it.
Raising his mighty hammer, Thor invoked the most ancient and powerful of all the rune spells at his command. A spell now embedded within his mighty hammer. A spell that others had enhanced in preparation for this time. Most importantly of all Time's Guardian had reinforced the spell during his visit to Asgard long ago. The effect of the spell was to slow down the time flow on the approach to end time. To seek to delay the inevitable. There might yet be time.
"You, you ___" taunted Fate "did you not learn the futility of confronting me during the time wars." "You may be the greatest warrior who ever drew breath, but I am one of the original forces of creation." "I am synonymous with inevitability, what I determine becomes fact, I am Fate and none may gainsay me."
But the time for words, of any kind, was well past and Fate knew this.
Fate itself took the offensive attacking Thor on all conceivable levels.
Thor twirled mighty mjolnir at a speed defying description, creating a multi-layered force screen that initially held against all the levels of Fate's attack, except one. The attack on the skyfathers mind.
The son of Odin found himself as a boy playing with his step brother Loki at the base of his father's throne. For one so young Loki's face looked grotesque. All the jealousy and hatred that would become more obvious in later years were evident in the boy. Already Loki had some small knowledge of the mystic arts and leering he unsheathed an enchanted dagger. Suddenly the boy Thor was desperately fighting for his life. Allfather Odin, deep in thought on his throne, seemed not to notice.
Thor knew it was Fates doing. A manipulation of his mind. Yet for all that it seemed very, very real in a physical sense.
Just barely Thor defeated his brother knocking him semi-conscious and hurling the dagger away.
Afterwards Thor found himself ageing and being confronted by different enemies of his past. He was being taken through his entire life span facing those relatively few enemies which had, at some time or other, defeated him.
Thor could sense that the only immediate danger to him was this attack on his mind, that otherwise mighty mjolnir's force shields were holding. Fate itself at bay. Somehow though he knew that if he was to survive he would have to win each and every one of these battles with which he was now being confronted. To defeat everyone who had ever beaten him in the past.
Thor's main link with reality was the beat of his heart and his ability to detect it. It was beating only very slowly leading him to believe that the "nightmare fights" were taking place very quickly or at least being processed very quickly by his mind.
The fights went on and on and on. Each time his maturing physical body seemed to be replenished but not the accumulating battle strain.
Eventually (and Thor knew from his own heartbeat that it had not been long) the nightmare battles drew to a close. Every single one of Thors enemies had been humbled.
In a sense each of the entities that Thor had been forced to fight in his mind had been a champion chosen by Fate. As almost all of them had defeated Thor at some time in his life Fate had reasoned that it was a trial that Thor could never complete. That the son of Odin would never emerge from this attack on his mind. In this respect, even Fate itself, had underestimated Thor.
Still, as he had intended, Fate had occupied Thor's mind for long enough.
The reinforced rune spell that had been delaying Time's End had been shattered as had the artefact in which it had been embedded. Thor could feel the actual temporal pull of End Time as he saw the shattered pieces of his hammer, the greatest weapon ever made, slowly fading into non existence.
Thor, Odinson, the de facto Guardian of Time had by his own reckoning no more than a few heartbeats left.
It was not without good reason that he was known as the Lord of Storms. Whether that be upon Earth, in Asgard, on another world, or deep in interstellar space. That power over storms extended to those of the cosmic and even inter-temporal variety.
Among his very greatest power, even as Rune Thor, was to summon a time storm. He had rarely done so as the consequences would have been too grave to contemplate. Almost always, with the exception of the time wars, Thor had held back.
Now, on the cusp of Time's End, was not such a time.
Thor would have preferred to have mighty Mjolnir, with which to channel the power of the time storm. But Mjolnir had been shattered into pieces and even now was beginning to disappear in the temporal pull of Time's End.
Thor wasn't even sure if, so close to End Time, his power over storms would work here, but of course he had to try.
Also he was suffering intense mental battle fatigue from Fate's attack on his mind. In his mind he had fought and defeated all those enemies and a few others who had defeated him in times past. More in doing so the battle strain from each encounter had been cumulative and was now almost unbearable. As no doubt Fate had intended.
As Thor summoned the time storm, for a heartbeat or perhaps two, nothing happened. There was only the final running down of time. Then it came. It was the greatest storm of any kind that the son of Odin, or anyone else, had ever brought forth. As if somehow all of time past was demonstrating to Thor that it was on his side. That it only needed someone to show it the way.
Yet would even this be enough to stop the inevitably of End Time?
Even as he brought about the storm Thor sought desperately to retrieve the shattered remnants of his hammer.
Odin's original spell created a bond between Thor and his hammer that very few completely understood, even though many respected it. Fate itself being no exception. Thor in his wisdom had still further strengthened that bond.
Now as Thor called unto the shattered remnants of the hammer supreme, the strength of that bond was tested as never before. Thor reached out to Mjolnir with parts of his own life essence invoking a rune spell designed to join them and make them as one. This did not happen, yet ,against the seemingly irresistible pull of End Time, parts of the great hammer returned to their master.
It was not quite all of mighty Mjolnir, but as the partial hammer reformed, not through troll's forge but through the mystical power of its master, it was enough.
Such was the ferocity of the time storm that even Fate seemed to be shielding itself from the onslaught.
Yet Thor saw that the march to End Time had only been halted.
An impasse appeared to have been reached. A balance, if you will, between the inertia of the slide into End Time and the sheer ferocity of the Time Storm.
At this point Fate again intervened using its own raw power to disturb the balance.
Thor saw that the planetoid upon which he had engaged Fate had begun to implode.
He saw also a strange sight indeed. The (apparently) physical bodies of some of those "champions" of Fate that he had engaged and defeated in the assault on his mind, drifting into End Time. Though these were not the entities of his own time, his suspicions that Fate had somehow given physical form to the battles in his mind, were confirmed. It was of no consequence now.
Responding to Fate's challenge, the greatest warrior that had ever drawn breath raised his hammer high drawing on part of the time storm and the totality of his own life force. Letting all these become as one: elements of the time storm, his own life essence and the greatest weapon of all. The great inter-temporal energies lanced forth first striking down Fate then tipping the delicate balance twixt the slide into End Time and the Time Storm.
It was over. Not only had the relentless advance into the oblivion of End Time been halted but it had now actually been reversed. Ultimately it would be by billions of years at least.
Do not let this cause you to doubt the inevitability of The End Time. It will come. In a far future as the then final remaining Universes implode in on themselves and on one another and we are returned to the absolute nothingness that was before time and will be after time.
But not when Fate decreed it should be, thanks to the mighty Thor.
In that far future the son of Odin will stay on, becoming the permanent Time's Guardian until the final and irreversible arrival of Time's End.