Sadistic and cunning, Thresh is an ambitious and restless spirit of the Shadow Isles. Once the custodian of countless arcane secrets, he sought a power greater than life or death, and now sustains himself by tormenting and breaking others with slow, excruciating inventiveness. His victims suffer far beyond their brief mortal coil as Thresh wreaks agony upon their souls, imprisoning them in his unholy lantern to torture for all eternity.
In an age history has all but forgotten, the man who would later be known as Thresh was once a member of an order devoted to gathering and protecting knowledge. The masters of this order tasked him with guarding a hidden underground vault filled with dangerous and corrupted magical artifacts. Thresh was incredibly strong-willed and methodical, which made him well-suited to such work.
The vault Thresh guarded was buried deep beneath the citadel at the center of an island chain and protected by runic sigils, arcane locks, and potent wards. Spending such time in the presence of dark spells began to affect Thresh as the magic sought out his innate malice. For years the relics preyed on his insecurities, taunting him with his deepest fears and feeding his bitterness.
Thresh's spite surfaced through wanton acts of cruelty as his talent for exploiting vulnerability bloomed. He slowly tore pages out of a living book, binding it back together when it was all but spent. He scratched the glass of a mirror bound with the memory of an ancient mage until it was opaque, trapping the man in darkness, only to polish it anew and repeat. Just as a secret wants to be told, a spell wants nothing more than to be cast, and Thresh denied this each day. He would start to recite an incantation, then let the words trickle off his tongue, halting just before the last syllable.
He became exquisitely skilled at covering all evidence of his cruelty, such that no one in the order suspected he was anything other than a disciplined guard. The vault had grown so vast that no one knew its contents as completely as Thresh, and the lesser artifacts faded from the order's memory, as did Thresh himself.
He resented that he had to hide his meticulous work. Everything under his watch was evil, or corrupted in some way - why shouldn't he be free to do as he would?
The vault held many peculiar magical artifacts but no people, until one day when a chained man was dragged into the sunken catacombs. He was a warlock who had infused his body with raw sorcery, which gave him the power to regenerate his flesh, no matter how grievous the wound.
Thresh was delighted at his new ward - a being who could feel the full range of human suffering, but would not perish, a plaything he could torment for years to come. He started methodically separating the warlock's skin from his flesh with a hook, and used his chains to lash and tear the open wound until it healed. He took to wearing the chains as he patrolled the vault, reveling in the warlock's fear at the long, dragging sound of his approach.
With ample charges to torment in the vault, Thresh became even more distanced from the order above. He began to take his meals in his underground chamber lit by a single lantern, rarely emerging from the catacombs. His skin developed a pallid complexion from lack of sunlight, and his face became gaunt and hollow. Members of the order avoided him, and when a series of mysterious disappearances plagued the order, none thought to investigate Thresh's lair.
When the disaster known as thestruck, magical shockwaves claimed the lives of all who lived on the isles and transformed them into a state of undeath. While others screamed in anguish, Thresh reveled in the ruin. He rose from this cataclysm as a spectral abomination, but unlike many who have passed into the shadow world, Thresh did not lose his identity. Rather, his penchant for cruel torture and ability to discern weakness was only heightened.
He relished the chance to continue his cruelty without fear of reprisal, unfettered by the limits of mortality. As a wraith, Thresh could torment the living and the dead endlessly, delighting in their despair before claiming theirfor an eternity of suffering.
Thresh now seeks only particular victims: the most clever and resilient, and those with a strong will. His greatest joy comes from tormenting his victims until they lose any last glimmer of hope, before facing the inevitableof his .
A horrible scraping of metal chains drifted over the fields. Outside, an unnatural fog rendered the moon and stars all but invisible, and the regular hum of insects fell silent.
approached a ruined hovel. He raised his , not to see his surroundings, but to look inside the glass. The interior of the lantern resembled a starry nightscape with its thousands of tiny green glowing . They buzzed frantically as if trying to escape Thresh's gaze. His mouth twisted in a grotesque grin, teeth glinting from the glow. Each of the lights was precious to him.
Behind the door, a man whimpered. Thresh sensed his pain, and was drawn to it. He knew the man's suffering like an old friend.
Thresh had only appeared to the man once, decades ago, but since then the specter had taken everyone the man held dear: from his favorite horse to his mother, brother, and recently a manservant who had become a close confidant. The specter made no pretense of natural deaths; he wanted the man to know who caused each loss.
The spirit passed through the door, scraping hisas they dragged behind him. The walls were damp and ingrained with years of grime. The man looked even worse: his hair long and matted, his skin covered in scabs - angry and raw from clawing. He wore what had once been fine velvet clothes, but were now little more than torn, tattered rags.
The man shrank from the sudden green glow, covering his eyes. He shook violently, backing away into the corner.
"Please. Please, not you", he whispered.
"Long ago, I claimed you as mine." Thresh's voice creaked and stretched, as if he had not spoken for an age. "It is time I collect... "
"I am dying", the man said, his voice barely audible. "If you're here to kill me, you'd best hurry." He made an effort to look at Thresh directly.
Thresh stretched his mouth wide. "Your death is not my desire."
He set the glass door of his lantern slightly ajar. Strange sounds came from within - a cacophony of screams.
The man did not react, not at first. So many screams emerged that they blended together like scraping glass shards. But his eyes widened in horror as he heard voices he recognized plead from Thresh's lantern. He heard his mother, his brother, his friend, and finally the sound he dreaded most: his children, wailing as if being burned alive.
"What have you done?" he screamed. He scrambled for something to throw - a broken chair - and threw it at Thresh with all his strength. It passed through the specter harmlessly, and Thresh laughed mirthlessly.
The man ran at Thresh, eyes wild with fury. The specter'schains whipped out like striking snakes. The barbed hooks struck the mortal's chest, cracking ribs and piercing his heart. The man fell to his knees, face twisted in delicious agony.
"I left them to keep them safe", the man cried. Blood gurgled from his mouth.
Thresh wrenched his chains hard. For a moment, the man did not move. Then the ripping began. Like a rough-spun sheet being slowly torn, he was excruciatingly pulled from himself. His body convulsed violently, and blood sprayed along the walls.
"Now, we begin", said Thresh. He pulled the captured, pulsing brightly from the end of the chain, and trapped him within the lantern. The man's hollow corpse collapsed as Thresh departed.
Thresh followed the curling Black Mist away from the cottage with his glowing lantern held high. Only after Thresh was gone, and the fog dissipated, did the insects resume their nightly chorus and stars once again filled the night sky.