Custodians of the Timestream
The Time-Keepers are the creation of He Who Remains, the very last director of the Time Variance Authority (TVA) existing at the final common endpoint of all surviving realities in the multiverse, just prior to the heat death of the universe. The Keepers serve two purposes: First, they are a gift to the future, teaching those of the next universal cycle how to avoid the errors of the past; and second, they serve as living batteries of chronal power, the accumulated (and growing) energy of the TVA’s eternity of existence, which is used to ensure quality of life for retired TVA employees.
Unfortunately, the three entities that hatch from He Who Remains’ nurture pods are immediately flawed—even warped. Dubbed the Time-Twisters, they travel backwards through time, seeking the origins of the universe, heedless of their destruction of each era through which they passed. The Twisters’ backward spiral interacts with Earth every 30 centuries, a cosmic upheaval upon their departure reducing it to cinder as they left.
Zarrko the Tomorrow Man’s Timescope observes their destruction of 80th century Earth, and he realizes that the 50th century Earth that he had conquered (Earth-7613) would be next to fall. Zarrko brings Earth-616’s Thor Odinson, AKA Thor, and his allies Jane Foster and the Warriors Three to his kingdom, then announced a great reward for anyone able to destroy the Twisters. After the Twisters casually wipe out Zarrko’s army, they are informed that the worlds they had visited were not better off via the gift of learning as they had assumed, but had instead been utterly destroyed. Unconcerned (feeling the knowledge they sought was worth the sacrifice of a million worlds), the Twisters ignore Thor and his allies’ assaults as they departed, destroying Earth-7613. Zarrko, Thor and Thor’s allies travel to the Citadel at the End of Time, arriving moments before the Twisters’ hatching. They show He Who Remains what his creations had become, and he terminates the incubating Twisters, preventing their existence.
He Who Remains then replaces the Time-Twisters with more perfect versions—the Time-Keepers known as Ast, Vorth, and Zanth. However, this reality created two divergent branches of reality. In one reality, Reality-794282, He Who Remains aborts the Twisters and creates the Keepers; and in the other, Reality-761243, he does not abort the Twisters, and thus never creates the Keepers. Ever since, the two divergent branches of reality shift back and forth in dominance, with the Twisters and the Keepers competing for dominion at the end of time, and thus being able to shape the next reality. At some point, He Who Remains banishes a mysterious fourth Time-Keeper, who becomes known as the Oracle of Siwa, to ancient Egypt in 2950 BC.
The Keepers set themselves up as custodians of the timestream, authorizing the installation of Uatu the Watcher’s extradimensional portal, allowing him to view other realities. They also appoint Immortus as custodian of the segment of time between 3000 BC and 4000 AD.
The Time-Keepers have great power to manipulate temporal energy. They can age entire armies to dust or reverse aging to before the point of life (virtual immortals such as Asgardian gods can resist these effects). They can summon beings from any point in the timestream, sending them to do their bidding. They can travel through time and into various alternate realities, form powerful energy shields, project force blasts, and grant power to others.
The three Time-Keepers work together using the power of the Forever Crystal, which allows them to remove countless realities from existence within seconds. They claim to have authority that not even the cosmic arbiter known as the Living Tribunal can judge.
The fourth Time-Keeper, the Oracle of Siwa, operates independently of the other three. Siwa can see flashes into the timestream but cannot time-travel like the others.
The sole divergent counterparts of the Time-Keepers are the Time-Twisters, with one each existing in one of the two final divergent realities at the very end of time. The Keepers and Twisters each manipulate events in the multiverse to ensure their own survival and domination of their counterparts. The Time-Twisters originally sought knowledge at the beginning of time, heedless that they destroyed the time periods through which they passed.
Foreseeing that the Avengers pose a threat to the Time-Keepers’ existence, they instruct their time custodian Immortus to break them up. However, he becomes impressed by them, and instead defies the Time-Keepers’ order. Also seeing that Rick Jones poses a threat, they amass an army of destructive alternate-reality Avengers to oppose him. Defended by Immortus’ hostile divergent counterpart Nathaniel Richards, AKA Kang the Conqueror, the mysterious Gustav Brandt, AKA Libra (formerly of the Zodiac Cartel), and the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence, Jones gathers the Avengers from various time periods to his side. Immortus seemingly destroys the Time-Keepers, but they survive his assault.
The Time-Keepers only true allies are themselves as time will tell that their time custodian Immortus turns on them. They also serve the TVA as their living batteries of chronal energy, supporting their eternity of existence and providing them a life in retirement.
The Time-Keepers’ Timeline
The Keepers directed Immortus to destroy or break up the Avengers (to prevent them from becoming a threat to the Keepers’ existence), but Immortus became so impressed with the heroes that he resolved to observe and shepherd them instead, defying the Time-Keepers’ wishes.
After the end of the Kree/Skrull War, the Time-Keepers confronted Immortus, accusing him of failing to hold up his end of the bargain, and showing him the potential futures of Earth-9812 (Avengers: Galactic Battalion) and other realities where humanity devastated all other life throughout the galaxy. They instructed him to prevent these events or they would destroy humanity itself. They later charged Immortus with slaying Wanda Maximoff, AKA Scarlet Witch, a Nexus Being whose children would be dangerously powerful, though Immortus instead worked to prevent her from bearing children.
At some point, the Time-Twisters gained ascendance over the Keepers and, posing as the Keepers, they guided Immortus to eliminate a number of realities that would decrease their dominance in existence at the end of time. They also had Immortus guide the eventual transmutation of a particular Nexus Being into a power source. Immortus chose the Scarlet Witch to fill this role, but eventually she threw off his control and rejected her increased power. The Twisters intervened, allegedly with the intent of stopping the accumulated energy from jeopardizing all future timelines. They transferred the Scarlet Witch’s vast expelled energy into Immortus, rendering him an immobile receptacle for temporal energy which they could then manipulate.
Around this time, the Keepers apparently attended Eon’s funeral and threatened to confiscate Uatu’s extradimensional portal after the Living Laser passed through his portal and caused a number of divergences. They most likely traveled back in time from their Citadel from a point when they retained dominance, though it is also possible that this was actually the Twisters in disguise.
Still posing as the Keepers, the Twisters later determined that there were four major Nexus Beings, one each in four different alternate realities, who might prevent their existence. Enlisting the aid of beings in each of these realities, they plotted to destroy these Nexus Beings (which would theoretically lead to those realities’ destruction) to ensure they would maintain dominance over the Keepers. Due to Immortus posing as the enigmatic Whisperer and secretly opposing their efforts, they only succeeded in destroying one of the Nexus Beings, and as a result, the Time- Twisters vanished from existence. Released from their control, Immortus used his accumulated power to become a temporal wave that threatened to re-write all reality. Uatu and the TVA successfully neutralized Immortus’ threat, and the Twisters re-formed; however, the Keepers then appeared and exposed the Twisters’ falsehood. The Twisters melted back into pods and the Keepers regained ascendance, taking the pods back to the Citadel at the End of Time and continuing to watch over the timestream .
Following a decision not to interfere with a power struggle in Kang’s Chronopolis, the Time-Keepers confronted Immortus, showing him that his actions, despite their intent, were actually leading to the future of Earth-9812. Immortus’ further delaying efforts—including engineering the so-called Crossing to keep the Avengers on Earth until the coming of Onslaught—amounted to naught, and the Keepers ordered Immortus to slay Rick Jones to prevent his awakening of the Destiny Force in the rest of humanity. Jones was defended by Kang, Libra, and the Kree Supreme Intelligence, allowing Jones to use the Destiny Force to summon Avengers allies from various time periods. Immortus subsequently destroyed Chronopolis and converted its power source into the Forever Crystal, with which he could easily eliminate realities detrimental to the Keepers’ existence: those “damaged” by humanity. Nonetheless, the Keepers resolved to destroy all but the minimum number of realities necessary to secure their existence. They took the Forever Crystal to their Citadel at the End of Time to power their chrono-cannon, and they slew Immortus when he opposed them.
As their foes confronted them, the Keepers summoned legions of dark and destructive alternate-reality Avengers to oppose Jones’ cross-time Avengers, and they further neutralized Kang by catalyzing his evolution into Immortus; however, Rick Jones summoned an expanded army of valorous Avengers to oppose the Keepers’ army, evening the odds. Resisting the Keepers fiercely, Kang forced a divergence between himself and Immortus, splitting himself into two separate beings and causing a powerful temporal backlash that stunned the Time-Keepers. Nonetheless, the Keepers prepared to fire the chrono-cannon, but Rick Jones accessed the Destiny Force and shattered the cannon. As the three Keepers struggled to recover, a triumphant Kang emptied his weapons’ power packs into them, apparently destroying the Time-Keepers. Kang’s other self, the newly diverged incarnation of Immortus, departed for a new life independent of the slain Time-Keepers. Those who served the TVA against Immortus (including those who apparently perished) are believed to have been restored to their native timelines.
The Keepers were later seen as prisoners of the virtually omnipotent Akhenaten; if these were not a chronologically earlier incarnation, it may indicate they have recovered from their seeming death. Alternatively, this could have been the disguised Twisters, whose fate following the Keepers’ apparent demise is unrevealed.
The fourth Time-Keeper, able to see flashes into the timestream but no longer able to time-travel, became known as the Oracle of Siwa. When Ramades—the son of another Kang incarnation, Rama-Tut—plotted to conquer the modern era, he first visited the Oracle of Siwa to ask if the moment was right for his conquest; the Oracle confirmed it to be so. The Oracle’s legend is noted in its legitimization of the rules of Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s first female pharaoh circa 1500 BC, and of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. The Oracle was so feared that the King of Persia once dispatched an army 50,000 strong to destroy its temple. The men were lost in the desert forever.
When Ramades banished the modern heroes of the Fantastic Four back to ancient Egypt, Reed Richards, AKA Mister Fantastic, recalled the legend of the Oracle and correctly surmised it to be a Time-Keeper. The Oracle revealed Ramades’ involvement, origins, and motivations, after which Reed’s father, Nathaniel Richards, arrived and transported the FF members back to their own time, where they defeated Ramades. At some point, before becoming frozen in Limbo Ice, the apparent last Time-Keeper warned Kang of the timelines all converging into an Adam Warlock, AKA Magus-dominated future.