We live in a universe of misfits and miscreants,

Nothing should come as a surprise.

- Eagle


Meetings

In the deepest bowels of space, there lay an astral body. One could call it a planet, though this sunless world would never be home to life. Since the discovery of this world, all nations barred anybody from ever setting foot upon this world, not for fear of a secret learned, not due to any attempt to hide a military presence. This world was and forever would be banned for the safety of those who were to try and set foot upon the ground of this barren, lifeless rock.

The very air of this hellish world was poison of the most potent, most corrosive kind. It didn't matter how one prepared themselves for their attempt to walk this world of death, they would find themselves deceased in short order as their protective suits and armours wasted away before their eyes. Even attempts to remotely survey the land were destined for failure.

Not even the gods dared to tread upon these lands, for they knew all too well that not even their divinity was a shield against what this world held. As a soldier would one day proclaim in an act of defiance against a being so much greater than himself, whether he was aware of the truth of it or not, he taunted that "even gods can die." And this land with its toxic atmosphere was one of the few things lethal to even those upon whom death seemingly had no reach.

The children of Terra had an apt name for this world and its deathly atmosphere—Jormungand. Named for the Norse myth of the world serpent, or rather, named for the poison of the serpent which apparently killed the Norse god of thunder before he could take nine steps from the slain serpent.

Even should the atmosphere of this world not slay any who dared treat upon its surface, the absence of a nearby star to provide light and warmth meant that life had no method of thriving. The cold was such that even the most enduring of life would freeze, whilst stumbling in the ever present darkness.

Jormungand was a world which would never hold life of its own, and any attempt to introduce life from beyond its reach was destined to fail in a matter of seconds. The term "death world" had never seen a more apt candidate for the title. Outside of a token effort once every century to test whether technology had evolved to the point that remote surveillance could finally survive, this barren world was left alone.

And yet, upon that world, against all logic, a lone figure cursed under his breath as he almost slipped, managed to catch himself before he rolled back down to whence he came. With a grunt of exertion, he grabbed at a nearby structure with a hand almost human—but for the absence of one finger—and tugged, forced a portion of the stone of the mountainside to swing outwards. The individual stepped through the opening, unsurprised at how the large stone door swung itself back into place the moment he had fully entered into the cavernous interior.

It would be a lie to say the inside was dark, because while there was no light to be found, that was no different from outside the mountain. To claim the inside was dark would imply that the exterior had more light in which to mark the difference. Despite the absence of light however, this lone being had no difficulty navigating himself through the winding passageway, though his ability to see in the darkness did little to deter his muttered complaints. Most of the complaints just happened to be centred on the notion that the passageway was spiralling downwards, rather than a simple straight pathway.

At long last, he reached the end of the path, marked by a tall stone door which opened as he neared, and for the first time since his arrival on Jormungand, he was no longer in the cold darkness, but instead bathed in a warm light. On the other side of the door lay a large circular chamber. The source of the light was a large flame set inside a marble fireplace. The walls were lined with shelves full of tomes, and in the centre of the chamber was a large marble table with four seats.

He stepped through the opened portal, and his features were then revealed by the light. He was a tall individual wearing simple clothing over rust coloured flesh, certainly nothing which should have protected him from the lethal coldness of the outside. The most unusual part about his appearance was his choice of headwear. He wore what appeared to be the skull of a reptile of some description, the eye sockets long since filled with reflective lenses which hid his features away from prying eyes. As the stone door shut behind him, he removed his personal effects and he then finally sat himself at the table, took in the occupants of the other three chairs.

To his left sat a man almost human in appearance, were it not for the crimson flesh. Like the skull wearing individual he only had three fingers and a thumb to each hand. Taking no note of his scrutiny, the red man pushed at the glasses perched on his nose, adjusted their position, and he gave a friendly smile before then returning his attention to the book in his hand.

Past the red man sat a female. There was nothing human about her visage, she was taller than the rest of the chamber's occupants; her emaciated appearance almost emphasised that height. She had a long face, with no visible nose and missing a lower jaw, leaving a gaping hole where the mouth should be. Her flesh, where it wasn't covered by her robe, was almost translucent, allowed her veins and arteries to be clearly seen. She had no arms, instead, from where her shoulder blades should be there were two short appendages, angled as though they were wings, but covered by the long, loose fabric of the oddly positioned sleeves of her robe.

Finishing back to the newcomer's right was another female. This one had a sickly green hue to her flesh, though she had a healthy glow to her that marked her as in good health despite her colouring. She looked bored, one hand absently scratching at the horns atop her head while the other was waved in a manner that reminded one of somebody conducting a symphony.

The armless female twisted her head around in a manner which made all present uncomfortable, and her yellow eyes glared into the newcomer. It was a common complaint of hers, she never did like the skulls he wore. While outside it was none of her business what he wore; at the table, amongst the others, he was to remove it. He crossed his arms in defiance. He had never bowed down to her demands before, why should he now? The argument was swift, silent, and her glare intensified before she gave a small huff and, had she the arms for it, would have crossed them in irritation.

'So, who's the new trophy?' the red man asked the newcomer with a hint of amusement in his tone and slight shake of his head directed at the sulking female. Not that he'd ever actually call her out on doing such.

'Some idiot that damn near destroyed an entire civilisation. Dunno the name.' The skull wearing entity shrugged. 'But he broke my last one, so he got the new one.'

The other male gave a low 'ah' of understanding. In their line of duty, they didn't always bother learning the who's who in their work. Too many, and strangely far too often considering the prerequisite for their involvement.

'Why are we gathered here?' the skull wearer finally asked, wearily.

'Too good for us?' the horned female rebutted, leaned forward, arms lowering from the imaginary symphony to instead rest atop the table.

'No, just bored of the three of you already.'

'Just time for an update about the universe. And a reminder that we're still sane,' the red man pre-emptively cut across the retort. 'It's been a long time.'

'It's already been that long?' He sounded tired at the realisation.

The emaciated female nodded, her eyes softening. 'And you left early last time. For an understandable reason, but still… If you're still…?'

The skull wearer stiffened at the unintentional reminder, but forced himself to relax and shook his head in dismissal. It was an unspoken rule. Certain topics didn't get spoken of amongst each other, not without permission and certainly not for use as ammunition in their numerous grudges with each other.

The four sat around the table were anomalies. They had to be, for they were sat at a table on a world which even gods dared not tread.

These four individuals rarely met together. They rarely even got along. Siblings one and all, and like all siblings, they fought. But at the same time, they were loyal to each other, they were all they had. Everything could whither away and crumble into dust. But these four, they would always have each other.

Existence came and went, gods rose and fell, and life withered away before springing anew. But these four entities, they were eternal. Gods knew to fear them, for even the divine have to be wary of predators. The four sat at that table? They were those predators.

The four of them were especially well known for their legends. All across the universe, tales were told of them, even if the descriptions were never accurate, always glamorized, made far more fantastical than the truth. The legends never told the truth. They had a purpose, one beyond destruction. But few knew what their roles were.

'Ok,' the skull-wearer sighed. His hands came to the sides of his head and he carefully removed his mask. 'Let's get to business… What's new in this cesspit universe?'

- FIN