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 bring eternal darkness upon all of the Nine Realms. Taken from the Elves by the Asgardians, it was later entrusted to the Collector following the conclusion of 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 Titan II, Thanos would ultimately destroy the Reality Stone and 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 initiated 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 Aether.
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."
The leader of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim, Malekith, used the Reality Stone to create the weapon called the Aether. Every five-thousand years, the Convergence causes the Nine Realms to become aligned. In 2988 B.C., Malekith planned to use this event to release the Aether and plunge the nine realms into eternal darkness; however, the Asgardians intervened and took the Aether from the Dark Elves by force, watching as the race was apparently decimated in battle. Bor then had the Aether hidden away where no one could find it, and over the following five millennia, its story faded from known history.
The Second Attempt
- "Here's an interesting story, though, about the Aether. My grandfather, many years ago, had to hide the stone from the Dark Elves. Scary beings. So Jane... Oh, there she is. That's Jane. She's... an old flame of mine. She... she stuck her hand inside a rock this one time, and then the Aether stuck itself inside her."
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 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 this time, Malekith sensed the Aether's activity and attempted to retrieve it by attacking Asgard. In the end, through the sacrifice of Frigga, 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 of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange. He used the Reality Stone to transform a large chuck 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.
After having used the Infinity Stones to destroy half of the universe, a weakened Thanos retreated to Titan II. 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 Titan II 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.
After successfully transporting the past versions of the stones to the present, Hulk, wearing a Nano Gauntlet created by Stark, harnessed the power of the six stones to resurrect the lives claimed by Thanos, albeit losing the ability to use his right arm in the process. Moments after the resurrection, the New Avengers Facility was attacked by the past version of 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 restore the Aether within Foster.
Those who fully understands its capabilities can remove the Reality Stone from others and safely absorb it into themselves granted they had the necessary level of power needed, as Malekith was able to draw the Infinity Stone out of Jane and merge with it. Their physical powers are greatly enhanced, as evidenced when Malekith was on par with Thor in terms of raw strength and he was also capable of quickly regenerating lost limbs and enduring Thor's blows without any significant damage, with Malekith only being vanquished by having his own ship collapsing on him. Malekith was also able to use the Reality Stone's powers over reality to send out blasts of energy strong enough to cause Thor wielding Mjølnir trouble blocking them and harm the nearly invulnerable Asgardian and even teleport, shown when Malekith suddenly appears in front of Thor. While fully unleashing the Stone's power on the Nine Realms, Malekith also grew in size to roughly three times Thor's height.
When inserted into the Infinity Gauntlet and wielded by Thanos, it is shown that, when harnessed by a user who fully understands and masters its capabilities, the Stone is able to warp reality to a greater extent than previously perceived, as Thanos, with his strong understanding and mastery of its powers, proves able to skillfully warp reality more powerfully than Malekith's display of the Stone's power over reality, achieving numerous powerful capabilities that he very effectively employed.
From the Reality Stone, Thanos acquires the power to create highly elaborate physical simulations and illusions of false realities over a wide range of influence by altering reality in said area to whatever he wished. Prior to the Ambush in Knowhere, Thanos used the Stone to create a false illusion of himself interrogating the Collector in a completely deserted Knowhere, in order to fool the approaching Guardians of the Galaxy and mask the colony's true status as burning down and utterly ruined, rendering himself invisible in the process. The false reality was so convincing that the false Thanos could physically interact with others, and could fight with and be killed by Gamora. Again, prior to the Battle of Titan, Thanos used the Reality Stone to alter the reality around the planet Titan to show Doctor Strange its former beauty in its peaceful prime, in a time before it became an uninhabited wasteland.
Another powerful capability that Thanos gains from the Reality Stone's control over reality is the power to warp and transmute matter into anything he wished. While often doing this to turn and use objects in his surroundings offensively, Thanos displays that the Reality Stone's transmuting powers can even 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 being non-lethal for the recipients, after which they eventually restored themselves to normal after Thanos left the area.
Thanos was able to also use this ability discreetly and silently, as when Star-Lord reluctantly attempted to execute his teammate and lover, Gamora, to prevent her capture by Thanos, the Titan silently transmuted his Quad Blasters to harmlessly fire bubbles, before transforming the weapon itself into bubbles, and 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 very 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.
Thanos also displays that the Reality Stone can be used in conjunction with the other Stones to expand it's effects. Combined with the Space Stone, Thanos can 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 also 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, it allowed Thanos 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, and the Gauntlet and his left arm were left scorched by the release of energy.
The Aether converts matter to 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. As used by Malekith, the only one who fully understood its capabilities, it was capable of creating tendrils of itself or spikes to strike out at opponents, regenerate lost limbs, and create a tornado of energy.
Whilst bonded to a strong host like Malekith, the Aether greatly enhanced his physical strength and durability, thereby allowing him 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 in that it awoke them from hibernation when the Aether was used again and Malekith could sense the Aether's location.
- 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.