"The villainy you teach me I will execute—and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction." - William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
The amber gem sparkled in the fading afterglow of another bleak Sanctuary sunset. A final burst of light shot between the outcroppings of rock that lay low on the horizon, refracting through the stone’s facets in a brilliant shower of colour. A low energy pulsed from inside it, beckoning to the latest in a long line of its masters. The enormous purple creature felt an insistent prickling in his mind at the jewel’s call. He rose from his seat on the nearby throne and approached the artifact which was lying on a plinth just out of his reach. He placed his large hand over the stone and closed his eyes, willing it to speak to him once more.
And speak to him it did. Not in any tongue that the human mind would recognise but rather in the language of the cosmos. Its speech was pure intellect, an intermingling of minds. If the cold rock could be said to have a mind. Apparently, it did. Or more likely, it was a Mind with a will of its own. Fortunately for him, the Stone and he appeared to have the same goal: to reunite it with its brothers and use their combined power to right the wrongs of the universe.
As he listened, the creature got the distinct impression that the gem was somehow...afraid. It longed for protection, to be hidden away from prying eyes. The giant being pressed his mouth into a hard line, deliberating the best course of action. His gaze wandered back toward his throne where a golden scepter leaned against the backrest. Suddenly, his eyes lit from within. Cradling the small orange jewel in one hand, he retrieved the scepter with the other.
An inscrutable creature in a dark robe with bluish skin appeared. He tiptoed slowly toward the throne as though he were traversing a frozen lake. In a way, he was always treading such thin ice, for his master’s patience was nearly nonexistent these days. Fortunately for him, his superior greeted him with what could be almost considered a smile.
“Hold this,” he said, thrusting the scepter into the alien's long blue fingers.
“Yes, Dark Lord,” the Other muttered, receiving it with a bow.
“Remove the sacred jewel,” the Dark Lord instructed.
After several moments of fumbling, he finally managed to release the ice-blue stone it from the rest of the golden instrument. Bowing again, he handed it to his liege.
The Dark Lord held the two stones roughly an inch apart from each other. Truthfully, they made a startling contrast, the small golden orb against the larger azure one. Nothing happened for a minute or two. Then all at once, the smaller seemed to be drawn into the larger. It passed through the hard crystalline surface as if it were jelly. When it was over, the two could no longer be distinguished from each other. He returned the sacred jewel to his subordinate, who reinserted it into the scepter. Without warning, the stone began to glow. The Dark Lord grinned wickedly as he retrieved it once again.
“Begging your pardon, my Lord,” the Other began timidly. “But we have a...situation.”
The Dark Lord frowned. “Then deal with it.”
“By whatever means necessary?”
The Dark Lord nodded. “You have my permission.”
If anyone could have seen underneath the mask the creature wore, they would have beheld a horrifying smile. “Many thanks,” he said, and slunk away whence he had come.
But the Dark Lord paid him no heed. He only had eyes for the glorious golden staff he now held in his hands.
Unbeknownst to him, the gemstone inside the larger jewel was observing him, too, glowing with an ominous pleasure.