Lost in the Mists
First of the Eighth Moon, 350
Wine improves with age; the same cannot be said for strength.
In the four months since Sergei has come here, he has insisted on joining me in my daily sparring matches with my officers. It has been a common practice of mine to keep my skills sharp. Dulled and weighted blades never capture the thrill of a keen edge’s risk—-but they still hurt and practice is ever important.
Initially, I would duel Sergei later in the morning and show him my tricks. I admit to a sense of pride in teaching him and seeing him improve. That started to change, however, when people started to watch our fights. I started to feel a growing fear that my advancing age would one day rob me of my title, while being observed by my retainers. I find myself fighting harder to deflect Sergei’s blows and taking more effort to secure a victory. Sergei acts like he doesn’t know how close he comes to besting me. Perhaps he doesn’t, or perhaps he’s mocking me.
If he continues to train with Alek I suspect that in a month he’ll be the best swordsman in Barovia.
What use this will be as a priest I know not.
We received word that a bandit known as Red Lucas had made another violent assault on a farmstead and I opted to bring the criminal to justice myself. Alek, Leo and a small cadre joined me, with Sergei insisting on coming along. We found the bandits high in the mountains on a ledge overlooking Lake Zoravich. We fell on them at once, Alek and Leo killing their opponents quickly and moving to others while I engaged Red Lucas and his bodyguard. They were no match for me and I killed Lucas’s men and critically wounded him. In the commotion, Alek had taken a sneaky hit that sent him off the ledge. Sergei raced to fight the dreg that shoved Alek and I all but ran off the ledge in my haste to see if he survived the fall. Alek dangled a few feet below, clutching to a root with the lake far below him. As Sergei and Leo subdued the rest of the bandits, I reached down to Alek. He had the gall to reject my hand, fearful that his weight would pull me over the edge. I argued with him but he continued to deny my aid. He would have fallen to his death had I not then threatened that if he fell I would leap myself. This shocked him into action and he took my hand.
With Alek safe and the other bandits captured, I faced Red Lucas. The swine spit at me and in response I lopped his ugly head from his shoulders. I ordered that his men be likewise punished and my men quickly executed my orders. Sergei seemed shaken by this, and protested when I gave my orders that the pigs’ heads be paraded through the villages. If it was any other man, even Alek, I would have had him whipped. But my kindness for my kin allowed me to explain that justice needed to be upheld and the people needed to know they were save, as well as the price of thievery, rape and murder. Sergei remained troubled throughout the day.
Perhaps it is best he is a cleric and not a leader.
Alek was grievously apologetic for the affair, but I wouldn’t accept his apology. It was not his fault a brigand knocked him from a ledge and it was only his loyalty that prevented him from accepting my hand. But I made one thing clear: I would sooner lose him than I would cut off my sword hand. He seemed pleased at this and retired.
I hope I will not have to do either.