We’re kicking off an October event I call Thresh-o-Ween — okay let’s face it this is just a Halloween event like last year, just with a little extra emphasis on my beloved Thresh, with a spooky fanfic I wrote in his honor. Of course it features his theme song, which I’ll talk about more next week. This League of Legends fanfic is basically appropriate for anyone as long as they aren’t easily scared, but there is some talk of blood and soul-draining, so be warned! Most about Thresh and other spooky things in the coming weeks!
Night was falling fast. As it was every year between the 18th and 31st of October, an astronomical event known as the Harrowing was underway. A partial eclipse, culminating in a full solar eclipse on the final day, made the days darker. No one knew what caused the Harrowing, and perhaps as a result — no, simply because it was unsettling by nature — it was the center of many superstitions and was, in people’s minds, connected to evil things. Most learned folk understood it as nothing more than an astronomical event, however strange, but that didn’t dissuade the faint of heart from feeling unsettled during this dark period.
Fredrick’s family, like most of the non-superstitious sort, was spending this occasion in celebration and fun. His father and his father’s friends were on a camping trip with their kids in the woods on the outer edges of Demacian territory. Most of the adults had grown up together in one of the towns in the plains surrounding the capital city itself. Many of them had moved on up, however, and held positions of some meager authority in the capital now. They stayed connected and had annual meetups with their friends who stayed in the towns, however. Some of the attendees of the camping trip were friends of the city-dwellers only and had been invited along, but for the most part everyone knew each other and were old friends. The same couldn’t be said for their kids.
Fredrick was 10, his mother dead from an accident in the city earlier that year, and his father a well-to-do but by no means famous summoner in the League of Legends who had brought him on this camping trip for the first time as a means of helping him cope. But for Fredrick this trip was not therapeutic. In fact, it was torment. He was not well-liked by the older kids on the trip. Some he’d known from the boys’ academy he attended in Demacia, while others were kids from both inside and outside the city proper whom he’d never met. Maybe they disliked him because of talk from their parents about his father, the only one of his friends who had managed to get into the League, though on the surface he appeared to be well-liked. Perhaps it was because he was timid, especially so in the aftermath of losing his mother. Or perhaps they were simply mean children. Whatever the case, as the Harrowing progressed and the nights got darker, a group of the eldest of the 20-something children on the trip took to scaring young Fredrick.
It was the 30th of October now, just before the darkest night of the year, and night was falling fast, and early. It was dark enough during the day, but the nights had become almost pitch black, and even now the silhouettes of the trees were all that could be seen against the barely orange-tinted darkness of the late dusk sky. Fredrick didn’t know which was worse, those nights where everything was still and you could hear every snap and rustle in the trees from sources that were invisible in the blackness, or those nights where the breeze had picked up and you stood less chance of hearing something that just might be coming for you. Whichever was the case, tonight was the latter. The breeze had picked up into a soft wind, and the gusts rustled the trees and drowned out all of the sounds of creatures about in the woods.
After previous nights of torment from the older boys, Fredrick had taken to simply staying with his father and spending time with the adults around the biggest fire in their small encampment. It was located at the crest of a gentle hill which took up all of a sizable, though by no means large, clearing. Nearby was a cluster of tents of varying sizes, and a short way past them, down the gentle slope, were two smaller fires around which the children gathered, each an equal distance from each other as they were from the main fire. All around were the barely-visible trees.
The adults were interesting people and provided he wasn’t disruptive, they didn’t mind him occasionally chiming in on their conversations. But apparently this night they were discussing something he wasn’t meant to hear. Fredrick had been trying to pay attention to what had seemed like a discussion of foreign politics, but he didn’t know many of the words and couldn’t really follow. He did catch the word “Noxus” though — an enemy city-state and a name repeated often and with much contempt in the city of Demacia where he and his father lived — before his father shushed its utterer and turned to his son.
“Fredrick, we need to discuss some things that aren’t for children,” he told his son.
Panicking visibly at the thought of being alone with the other children, Fredrick assured his father, “I promise I won’t interrupt. I’ll be quiet and just listen.”
Misunderstanding his son’s panic for social anxiety about the other children in general, Fredrick’s father responded exactly how he’d feared he would. “Maybe when you’re older. Run along and play with the other children. You should be spending more time with kids your age anyway.”
Fredrick stared at his father with fearful eyes for a moment before nodding and hanging his head. He got up and walked away from the campfire. His father watched him leave, only giving the other man the okay to continue when he knew his son was out of earshot.
Fredrick shuffled off, dejected, towards one of the smaller campfires where the younger children were quietly playing. It wasn’t as though he minded the younger children, or even most of the ones his age. Most of them were a bit more like him. Less timid and less haunted, as all of them had both of their parents still, but certainly not the tormenters the older kids were. Save for the few who would follow the older kids’ lead, anyway.
He looked out of the corner of his eye at the smaller campfire where the older kids — most of them teenagers, all of them boys — made a racket. They were talking loudly and excitedly to one another, occasionally whooping or shoving each other. Fredrick cringed and walked more quickly to the campfire with the younger kids. He tried to play quietly with the kids there, his back to the older kids’ camp so they wouldn’t recognize him, but he knew it wouldn’t be long before they came over anyway.
And it wasn’t. Only a minute or two had passed before…
“Hey, what do you know? It’s little Freddy,” came the familiar voice of Ben as his hand came down on Fredrick’s shoulder.
The six older boys came up from behind him and spread out around the younger kids’ fire, seating themselves on logs that surrounded it, while Ben and his buddy Bram both sat down on either side of Fredrick.
Ben was the leader of their little group, and Bram was his best friend. Both were from the boys’ academy that Fredrick attended in the city, and both were the eldest of the group at 15. The two of them formed the “brains” of the group, coming up with all the ideas for insults and pranks. Oh, the others occasionally would come up with something of their own, but for the most part they just repeated or went along with whatever Ben and Bram came up with. Edgar and Alfred were also from the academy, while Steven was Ben’s neighbor and Robert lived in the country town and met up with the rest on occasion during these meetups. The four “follower” boys were all between 12 and 14, but Fredrick didn’t know their exact ages.
Ben, on Fredrick’s left, put his arm around Fredrick’s shoulder and pulled him close for a noogie, while Bram sat on his right.
“You trying to sneak past us, Freddy?” Ben asked, not expecting an answer. “Good thing Steven spotted you skulking down from the parents’ fire or we might not have been able to have fun together, huh?”
The six older boys laughed, though it didn’t seem anyone had made a joke. Several of the younger kids who’d already been there joined in, while the rest just looked nervous. Fredrick didn’t say anything, just struggled weakly to get out of Ben’s grip.
Ben released him but didn’t stop mocking. “Yeah, all kinds of fun we can have together, little Freddy. Like that time we put all of those pictures of that Noxian champion Katarina in your things at school, and you got caught trying to hide them, eh?”
“Yeah, but he’s been a lot more fun in general since, oh, what was it, around four months ago, wasn’t it? No one coming around anymore to pick him up from the academy every day. Long walk home. Easy pickings, right Bram?”
That was a cruel blow, but it was the truth: Before his mother had died, Fredrick had been subjected to their torment much less because she picked him up right after school every day. Bram didn’t reply, though. He just shrugged. The rest of the boys laughed along with Ben.
“Say, Ben, why don’t we play that game we’ve been talking about all day?” Bram suggested.
“Oh, yeahhh,” he answered. “Listen up kids, and Freddyyy: We’re going to tell you kids some great stories! All of them are true, too!”
In fact they were not. For the next hour, Ben and his gang took turns telling the younger kids scary stories, most of them quite twisted, in an effort to frighten them, particularly Fredrick, whom they knew to be especially easy to scare. And those efforts were successful; they quickly had all of the kids shivering, but they didn’t stop. None of the kids left, either, for fear of angering the much larger boys.
Finally, though, story-time came to a close. Night had completely fallen, and all around everything was pitch black; you could only see what was illuminated by the glow of the fires. The wind hadn’t settled. If anything it had picked up, making the flames dance and the light flicker unnervingly. By this point Fredrick was in tremors, but there was one more story left to tell. Bram took the reigns on this one.
“We saved the best story for last,” he said. “And you can’t doubt this one’s real, because its subject is famous! Of course we’ve all watched League matches, so you know about Thresh.”
Everyone shuddered, remembering all too well. None among them liked to watch Thresh’s matches. With that, Bram began.
“There once was a sadistic jailer from centuries past who took great delight in torturing his wards. Patient and brutal, he used a variety of methods to break his victims’ minds before their bodies succumbed to his grisly designs. Chains were the jailer’s preferred instruments of terror. Their shrill scrape marked his dreadful approach and promised agony to those he visited.”
None of them having heard this story about the twisted spirit they’d seen a few times on the Fields of Justice, the kids’ shivering worsened. Most of them thought they heard chains in the distance, but convinced themselves they were hearing things in the wind.
“His dark reign went unchallenged until his prisoners escaped during a massive riot. They overwhelmed him, and without ceremony or remorse, hanged him from his own chains. Thus began the unlife of the horrible specter known as Thresh, or so the tale goes.”
He grinned at Ben, then both of them did so at the others in their group. Then they all began to sing:
Cling clang, go the chains,
Someone’s out to find you.
Cling clang, oh the chains,
The Warden’s right behind you.
Quick now, the seeking chains,
Approach with their shrill scrape.
Don’t stop, flee the chains,
Your last chance to escape.
Drag the chains, drag the chains,
With all the strength you may!
Drag the chains, drag the chains,
‘ere they drag you away!
Cling clang, go the chains,
There’s no more time for fear!
And then, in a barely audible whisper:
Cling clang, go the chains,
The last sound that you’ll hear…
After a pause for effect, and also to enjoy the kids’ terror, the older boys burst out into laughter. The others were still shaking however, even the ones who would normally join in. After a few minutes of this, Ben put his arm around Fredrick’s shoulder again, but he addressed everyone when he spoke.
“Hey kiddies, why don’t we play another game?”
Everyone looked at him fearfully, save for the older kids who were clearly in on it.
“It’s a lot of fun. Here’s what we’ll do: We’ll all take turns going to the edge of the woods, right by the trees. When I say to start, you’ll close your eyes, and turn away from the trees. Whoever can stay like that the longest, wins…”
Bram finished it for him: “And whoever chickens out the fastest has to sleep outside the tents in the dark!”
The kids were horrified, but none of them spoke up. Fredrick tried to, however…
“I don’t want to,” he said.
“Nonsense! Come on, it’ll be lots of fun Freddy,” Ben told him, tightening his arm and trying to pull Fredrick up.
“No, I don’t want to. I’ll tell my dad-”
“You’ll tell him what?” Ben snapped, suddenly mad. “What’s Mr. Katarina Admirer gonna say that’s more trustworthy than whatever us good, moral Demacian loyalists say? Now get up!”
He pulled Fredrick to his feet and off towards the trees. The others herded the other kids. Of course they knew that the one who would chicken out first would be Fredrick, because he was the biggest scaredy-cat they knew. And they were going to force him to sleep outside if they had to. A voice called down from the adults’ fire, telling them not to wander off into the woods.
Ben took responsibility though, and apparently he was trusted enough: “We’re only going to the edge. Don’t worry, I’ll look after everyone!”
“You first, Freddy,” Ben said, turning his attention back to him. He released Fredrick and shoved him off towards the trees. The group had stopped halfway between the edge of the trees and the campfire, leaving enough distance between them and whoever stood with their back to the trees to make them feel alone, but close enough to see if they opened their eyes.
Fredrick turned back with a sad look on his face, but Ben took a threatening step forward and so he turned back towards the trees. Fredrick didn’t want to sleep outside, but he also didn’t know how long the rest would be able to stand there, and he didn’t want to stand so vulnerable in case there was anything out there. He was very scared but he resolved to stay as long as he could bear. Once he reached the trees, he turned towards the others. Ben sneered at him.
“Alright Freddy, start!”
Fredrick closed his eyes.
It’s not as though that made things any worse since it was so dark already, but it was bad enough standing by those trees to begin with. He strained to listen for anything that might be nearby in the woods, but he couldn’t hear anything but the wind. Well, that wasn’t true.
He could hear chains. He knew it was just his imagination, but that didn’t exactly help.
Then Ben’s gang started laughing again, before starting that song over.
Cling clang, go the chains,
The sounds of chains grew louder and Fredrick realized they were real. He began to shake violently, but still he squeezed his eyes shut.
Someone’s out to find you.
Some of the boys broke out of the song periodically to laugh again. The chains got louder. Very nearby. Fredrick realized then that it was them making the noise. They must have brought chains with them. Fredrick’s shaking subsided, and he breathed a sigh of relief. He thought maybe, now that he knew that, he might be able to last a while and beat at least a few of the others.
Cling clang, oh the chains,
The chains were so close now, just behind him. Any second now Fredrick expected to get startled by one of the boys; one of them must have crept up behind him to scare him and make him lose. He braced himself, but there was nothing. Nothing at all. No chains, no laughing, and no singing. There was nothing but an awful smell, like rancid breath.
Then, right by Fredrick’s ear, a voice. An unfamiliar voice, one that chilled him to his core just from the sound, and made his eyes fly open on the spot:
“The Warden’s right behind you.”
Fredrick froze completely from shock and then terror. He was rooted to the spot, no longer out of his desire to win but from raw fear. He couldn’t move. Couldn’t even think. Thresh stepped forward, placing his hand on Fredrick’s head — slightly gripping it — as he passed, before releasing it and moving towards the other children. Now there was a new light source: Thresh’s lantern. It bathed everything around in a sickly green glow. And it was worse than the blackness had been. That light felt like torture itself, its glow on your skin made it crawl. Made it feel like you were covered in filth, filth under your very skin.
As Thresh stepped towards them, the shock that had also been plainly visible on the other kids’ faces also turned to terror. They all screamed and began to run. Ben and Bram had been at the front, closest to Fredrick and Thresh, and turned to run as well, but they didn’t get far before they were caught.
Chains yanked their legs out from under them and sent them onto their stomaches. With the wind knocked out of both of them, neither were able to even begin trying to free their legs. Thresh trudged towards them at his own pace. Above, the adults heard the screams, but many of them were either half or fully asleep and they were slow to gather their wits and respond to the situation.
“Going somewhere, children?” Thresh all but cooed in that repulsive voice of his. “Come baaaaack. I’ve only just arrived at this little party of yours. Aren’t we having fun?”
As he neared the boys’ feet, he started gathering up the chain tethered to Ben. Both boys were screaming and whimpering, scrambling to get up or crawl away, but it was futile.
“Screaming won’t do you any good, Bennnn,” crooned Thresh.
He pulled Ben to him by the chain, then reached down and brought him up to his knees by his hair. Once Ben was steady, Thresh smoothed his hair with his left hand, while keeping his right gripped tightly to his shoulder. So tight the claws of his gauntlets dug in, and it bled.
“P-p-p-p-p-” Ben stuttered.
“P-p-p-p-p-” Thresh mimicked. He stopped brushing Ben’s hair to wag his finger at him. “You must speak up Benjamin.”
“P-p-please don’t kill me!”
Thresh threw his head back and issued a shrieking, gurgling laugh. It was the most bone-chilling thing that any of the boys had ever heard.
“You give yourself far too much credit, Benjamin!” Thresh said as though scolding him. “Your soul is weak. Why, I’d even say it’s weaker than that boy behind me…”
Thresh looked back over his should and looked straight into Fredrick’s eyes his his own empty, glowing sockets. “…Fredrick.”
He turned his attention back to Ben, now stroking his cheek with the back of his free index finger. “You live.”
With the hand that had been gripping Ben’s shoulder, Thresh shoved him to the ground. He hit the ground hard and his eyes closed for the briefest moment, but they flew open again and, not yet convinced he was safe, Ben stared back up at Thresh. The chains around his ankle released, and drew back towards Thresh. So too did the one around Bram’s ankle. This entire time Bram had been struggling to free himself, and as soon as the chain drew back, Bram leapt to his feet, he stepped back from Thresh and looked about ready to turn and bolt.
“And you, you’re special. You are to live as well…” Thresh said to him.
Bram hesitated, surprised.
“…forever!” Thresh reached forward before he could react, gripping his shoulder in his left gauntlet while bringing up his lantern in his right. He held it right in front of Bram’s face. The sickly glow intensified, bathing everything in green light. But none were lit brighter than Bram, whose very body seemed to glow. Every orifice — eyes, mouth, nose, ears — went aglow with green light, and then that light seemed to draw into the lantern. Thresh let out his laugh again as he drained Bram’s soul.
Fredrick watched it happen, unable to avert his gaze, still frozen to the spot.
Even after he released Bram’s shoulder and Bram fell to the ground motionless, eyes blank, Thresh kept laughing. Ben, horrified, dropped to his knees and bent over Bram’s lifeless husk, shaking him and crying out his name.
“Bram was a stronger boy than you, little Benjamin,” Thresh crooned again. “You never knew it, but he was always using you, ever since he met you and saw you as the ringleader of your little band. You were a great means of assuring him popularity, even power, at least so far as children can enjoy it.”
Thresh kept on laughing, leaving Ben to mourn Bram, and Fredrick frozen in his tracks. By now the adults were yelling, running down the hill. Thresh began to spin his chain, the end with the huge iron hook…
After it was all over, and the yelling and screaming had subsided, Fredrick finally regained control of his limbs. He started walking forward. He slowly passed Ben and Bram. He walked past all of the other children, huddling in fear. He picked up speed and ran to the adults on the hill, trying to find his father. Everyone he passed was either also huddling in terror, injured, or worse. Large gashes were in many of the adults, none of whom could stand up to the Chain Warden.
At the end of the path of bodies, some dead, some alive, some gripped with fear, Fredrick found his father lying on the ground face-up, spread-eagle.
He didn’t move. And his mouth was open in a grimace of pain. And his open eyes were as white as the marble towers in Demacia.