The Reality Stone was one of the six Infinity Stones, the remnant of a singularity that predated the universe, which represented the fabric of reality. Liquefied into a dark red fluid called the Aether (pronounced ēTHər), the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith intended to use it to revert the universe to its state of primordial darkness. The Aether was taken from the Elves by the Asgardians and entrusted to the Collector following the Second Dark Elf Conflict.
During the Infinity War, the Aether was retrieved from the Collector's Museum in Knowhere and solidified by the Mad Titan Thanos, who put the Stone inside his Infinity Gauntlet. After collecting the rest of the Infinity Stones, Thanos used the complete Infinity Gauntlet to snap his fingers, causing half of all life in the universe to crumble into dust. Upon fleeing to the Garden, Thanos would ultimately destroy the Reality Stone along with the rest of the Infinity Stones to avoid being tempted to use their powers and to ensure that the Snap became irreversible.
In 2023, the Avengers conducted a Time Heist in order to resurrect the lives Thanos had claimed, with Thor and Rocket Raccoon sent back in time to 2013 to retrieve the Aether from Jane Foster. Following the Battle of Earth, where Iron Man used all six stones to kill Thanos and his army at the cost of his own life, Captain America time-traveled to Asgard of 2013 to return the Reality Stone, albeit in its solidified state.
The Reality Stone is a remnant of one of the six singularities which existed before the universe. After the universe came to be, the Big Bang forged the six singularities into elemental crystals, dubbed the Infinity Stones, hurtling across the universe. The red Reality Stone had the power to alter and warp the fabric of reality.
Owned by the Dark Elves
The First Attempt
- "Long before the birth of light there was darkness, and from that darkness came the Dark Elves. Millennia ago, the most ruthless of their kind, Malekith, sought to transform our universe back into one of eternal night. Such evil was possible through the power of the Aether, an ancient force of infinite destruction."
- ― Odin[src]
Many thousands of years ago ago, Malekith, the king of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim, discovered the Reality Stone. Through means unknown, he was able to liquify it, augmenting its properties so that it could convert matter into dark matter and absorb life force from host bodies. He intended to use the modified stone, now known as the "Aether", to revert the universe to its state of primordial darkness, a state of being in which the Dark Elves would resume their prior role as the most powerful beings in existence. Malekith planned his campaign to coincide with Convergence, a cosmic event in which the Nine Realms of Yggdrasil are perfectly aligned through wormholes, in 2988 B.C.. The Dark Elves were opposed by the Asgardians under the command of their king Bor, leading to a protracted war that gradually turned against the Dark Elves' favor. With the Asgardians forcing the Dark Elves back to Svartalfheim for a final battle, Malekith sought to use the power of the Aether, now encased in a large Chamber, while the battle waned around him.
The Asgardians were able to take the Aether before its destructive power could be unleashed, however, using the Bifrost Bridge to snatch it from Malekith's possession, ultimately deciding the battle, and the war. Believing the Dark Elf threat neutralized forever, Bor saw that the Aether was buried on a distant world, intending that no other tyrant attempt to harness the weapon's fearsome power again. His gambit worked, with the Aether fading from history for 5,000 years.
The Second Attempt
In 2013, near the beginning of the Convergence, a portal opened up to where the Aether was located; Jane Foster happened to walk through this portal and, through curiosity, made contact with it, causing it to become active and infest Foster's body, using her as a host. After having been knocked out due to the ancient force having infested itself into her body, the Dark Elves awoke from their suspended animation aboard the Ark ship and started to search for the Aether.
After arriving back on Earth, Foster exhibited an immensely powerful energy projection when being touched on the arm, and was taken to Asgard by Thor where the Aether was discovered by Odin. During her time on Asgard, Foster and Thor learned about the Aether's origin and discovered it was an Infinity Stone used as the Dark Elves' chief weapon for thousands of years prior to its theft by the Asgardians.
Sensing the Aether's presence on Asgard, Malekith's lieutenant, Algrim, became the last of the Kursed warriors, allowing himself to be captured by the Einherjar. While Malekith and the Dark Elves invaded the city, Algrim initiated a chaotic uprising in the Asgardian Dungeons, having released dozens of prisoners after his transformation into the Kurse. Frigga defended Jane Foster from the Dark Elves, going as far as to challenge the Dark Elf leader and almost killing him, despite her being intercepted and murdered by Algrim. Through Frigga's sacrifice, Malekith and his army left before he could obtain the Aether.
Later though, when access to the Bifrost Bridge had been restricted, Thor, with a dying Foster, got Loki to take them through a hidden passageway to Svartalfheim. After getting there, they confronted Malekith and through various circumstances, the Dark Elf drew the Aether from Foster and into himself and left the planet. Both parties then arrived on Earth, where Malekith used the Aether to battle Thor across worlds during the Convergence, which resulted in Malekith's destruction.
Owned by the Collector
Afterward, the Asgardians were able to contain the Aether, which was later given to the Collector for safekeeping, not knowing the true intentions the Collector had. Two years later, Thor had a vision of the Infinity Stones and their role in the events of the previous years, where the Aether was shown solidifying into the Reality Stone.
Wielded by Thanos
Several years later, Thanos traveled to Knowhere and took the Aether from Collector, solidifying it into the Reality Stone and adding it into the Infinity Gauntlet. He used it to create an illusion to trap the Guardians of the Galaxy and then briefly rendered himself invisible while talking to Gamora before revealing himself and using the Reality Stone to easily turn Drax and Mantis into pieces of matter and then transformed Quill's upcoming blast from his blasters into bubbles before warping away.
Thanos would use the Reality Stone again to turn Gamora's dagger into bubbles so he could thwart her attempt to kill herself. He later used the Reality Stone to first show Doctor Strange how Titan once was before he then began fighting half the Avengers, Guardians and Strange. He used the Reality Stone to transform a large chunk of debris that he destroyed into swarms of black crystals when Iron Man slammed it on him and in his duel with Doctor Strange, Thanos used the Reality Stone to negate his dimensional gate before finally ending the fight by combining the Stone with the Space Stone to pull the sorcerer to him.
Upon arriving in Wakanda, Thanos used the Reality Stone to imprison Black Widow and finally to wipe out half the universe in conjunction with all the Stones, even after Thor severely wounded him with Stormbreaker using all his power. As Thor questioned what he caused, Thanos simply teleported away to the Garden along with the Infinity Stones.
After having used the Infinity Stones to destroy half of the universe, a weakened Thanos retreated to Garden. Three weeks later, he used the Infinity Stones again to destroy themselves, ultimately resulting in the Reality Stone's destruction. Days later, the Avengers, Nebula, and Captain Marvel traveled to the Garden with the intention of stealing the Infinity Stones. However, they discovered that the Gauntlet did not contain any of the stones, and the Avengers listened to Thanos' admission about destroying them before Thor decapitated him with Stormbreaker.
In 2023, five years after the Snap, Tony Stark devised a method to use the Quantum Realm in order to travel through time safely. In order to resurrect the victims of the Snap, the Avengers subsequently initiated a Time Heist, a mission involving traveling to the past in order to reclaim all six Infinity Stones and bring them to the present. Thor and Rocket Raccoon were dispatched to 2013 to retrieve the Reality Stone from Asgard, with Rocket extracting the Aether from Jane Foster.
After successfully transporting the past versions of the stones to the present, the Aether was solidified and placed with the Nano Gauntlet, created by Stark, Rocket and Hulk, the latter of whom harnessed the power of the six stones to resurrect the lives claimed by Thanos, losing the ability to use his right arm in the process. Moments after the resurrection, the New Avengers Facility was attacked by an alternate Thanos, who had time-traveled from 2014 to 2023.
Iron Man, Captain America and Thor fought the Mad Titan before they were given assistance by the newly resurrected heroes, sparking the Battle of Earth, which culminated in Iron Man sacrificing his life by using all six stones to kill Thanos and his army. Following Stark's funeral, Captain America was sent back in time by Hulk in order to put back the Infinity Stones to whence they were taken and journeyed to Asgard of 2013 to return the Reality Stone, albeit in its solidified state.
The Reality Stone granted its user absolute control over the fabric of reality itself. However, like all Infinity Stones, it can only be wielded by beings of sufficient power. When allowed to influence an average human it will inevitably kill them, as evidenced by Jane Foster. The Reality Stone's power is such that it can affect reality on a universal scale. Had Malekith succeeded in either of his attempts to use the stone's power, the entire universe would've been converted to dark matter. The stone is also nearly indestructible, being able to withstand blows from Mjølnir.
Those who fully understand its capabilities can remove the Reality Stone from others and safely absorb it into themselves, so long as they have the necessary fortitude to withstand its effect. Malekith was able to draw the Infinity Stone out of Foster and merge with it. Once a user has merged with the stone, their physical powers are greatly enhanced; Malekith, fused with the stone, was on par with Thor in terms of raw strength, and was also capable of rapidly regenerating lost limbs and enduring Thor's blows without taking significant damage, essentially fighting the Asgardian to a standstill only ending when he was crushed by his own ship.
Malekith was also able to use the Reality Stone's power to send out blasts of energy strong enough that a Mjølnir-wielding Thor had difficulty blocking them. The stone also allowed him to teleport, with Malekith being able to rapidly appear in front of Thor. While fully unleashing the Stone's power on the Nine Realms, Malekith grew in size to roughly three times Thor's height.
When inserted into the Infinity Gauntlet and wielded by Thanos, a user who fully understands and has mastered its capabilities, the Stone is able to warp reality to a greater extent than previously perceived, with Thanos demonstrating numerous powerful capabilities that he effectively employed.
From the Reality Stone, Thanos acquired the power to create highly elaborate physical simulations and illusions of false realities. Prior to the Ambush in Knowhere, Thanos used the Stone to create an illusion of himself interrogating the Collector in deserted Knowhere, in order to fool the approaching Guardians of the Galaxy, obfuscating the fact that the colony had already been sacked and burnt. The false reality was so convincing that the false Thanos could physically interact with others, even fighting and being killed by Gamora. Again, prior to the Battle of Titan, Thanos used the Reality Stone to alter the landscape of Titan and show Doctor Strange how the planet had looked in its prime, before it became a desolate wasteland.
The Reality Stone also gave Thanos the power to warp and transmute matter into anything he wished, most often using this ability to transfigure and use objects around him offensively. Thanos was also able to use these transmuting powers to affect living organisms. With a single blast from the Stone, Thanos easily incapacitated Guardians Drax and Mantis by temporarily warping their physical bodies, splitting Drax's body into pieces and turning Mantis into still-conscious strips of flesh. In both cases, these transformations were non-lethal and the targets were restored after Thanos departed the area.
Thanos was able to also use this ability discreetly, as when Star-Lord reluctantly attempted to execute his teammate and lover, Gamora, to prevent her capture by Thanos. The Titan silently transmuted Star-Lord's Quad Blasters to harmlessly fire bubbles, before the weapon itself dissolved into bubbles. Thanos would later do the same to Gamora's dagger on Vormir to prevent her from committing suicide.
During the Battle of Titan and Battle of Wakanda, Thanos used the Reality Stone's powers effectively in combat, transmuting a field of ship wreckage into a swarm of bats to attack Iron Man, and manipulating the ground to spawn a cage of stone pillars to trap Black Widow.
The Reality Stone can be used in conjunction with the other Stones to expand its effects. Combined with the Space Stone, Thanos was able to manipulate the terrain at such a scale as to pull a flying Doctor Strange into his hand, by pulling the surface of Titan itself towards him. In conjunction with the Soul and Time Stones, Thanos could heal fatal injuries he had sustained (discounting those caused by the Stones themselves), managing to fully heal the near-fatal wound caused by Stormbreaker as he teleported away with the Space Stone.
After the Infinity Gauntlet was completed and the Reality Stone's power reached its full potential, alongside the other Stones, Thanos was able to wipe out half of all sentient life in the universe with a simple snap of his fingers. However, using all six Stones in this manner at such a weakened state caused the Stones' combined power to nearly overwhelm him, with the Gauntlet and Thanos's left arm left scorched by the massive release of energy.
The Aether converts matter into dark matter, and seeks out host bodies in order to draw strength from their life force, i.e., energy from living organisms, thereby sapping them of energy in a process that would inevitably prove fatal. When used by Malekith, the Aether was capable of forming into tendrils or spikes to strike out at targets, regenerate lost limbs, and create a tornado of energy.
Whilst bonded to a strong host such as Malekith, the Aether greatly enhances the host's physical strength and durability. Malekith, bonded to the Aether, was able to fight Thor on a reasonably even basis. On its own, the Aether is capable of sending out shockwaves filled with its energy and pulses of power that can throw back any who it deems a threat to itself. These blasts have been enough to easily stun beings as physically powerful as Asgardians. The Dark Elves and Malekith appeared to have a connection to the Aether, with their 5,000 year hibernation ending when it was used for the first time since the First Battle of Svartalfheim.
- In the comics, the Collector owned the Reality Gem before Thanos took it from him.
- The large structure which contained the Aether is called the Chamber.
- In Guardians of the Galaxy the Reality Stone (as Aether) appeared in a hologram displayed by the Collector, however it is also visible inside a box in the Collector's Museum before that scene.