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Shadow Isles The Sundered Vaults Of Arcana
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Short Story • 3 Minute Read

The Collection

By Rayla Heide

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.

Lore

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.

Thresh OriginalSquare Thresh approached a ruined hovel. He raised his Dark Passage lantern, 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 Damnation orbs. 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 his Death Sentence chains as 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's Flay hooked chains 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 Damnation soul, 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.

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