Lost in the Mists
Fourth of the Eighth Moon, 353
I am thankful for my sleep.
As part of my condition, I find myself falling into a sleep at daybreak every morning. It is fascinating that it’s not due to the normal weight of the eyelids. It’s more like the light of a candle being put out. I must prepared, for when the sun’s rays break over the horizon everything goes dark. I am thankful because there are no nightmares. I had worried that I would see Tatyana falling to her doom every night. But nothing of the sort. There’s no dreams at all.
Perhaps it’s not sleep, but a return to the death that I cheated.
In fitting with my theory, I sleep in my coffin. I could sleep anywhere in the castle that is dark enough, but I feel a strange pull to the box and the grave dirt that would have been my tomb. I sleep in the mausoleum, in my own area very far from the bodies of Sergei and my parents. It seems disrespectful to pervert their resting places. I do find humor in arising every night from the chamber that I was never supposed to leave.
The Castle is starting to fall into disrepair. You forget all the little maintenances that are needed to be performed when the servants are gone. Disappointing, but perhaps it is better this way. The Castle is feeling more like my home with every passing day.
Life continues on in my domain. A few days after the wedding, the seasonal tax collections arrived from the collectors. They found the drawbridge up and didn’t know what to do. Wisely, they remained camped outside the Castle for several days. I knew I couldn’t approach them in person, no doubt they would know something was amiss. I came to them in the dead of night while they slept, but didn’t kill them. There’s still some responsibility to the faithful amongst my servants. I left them detailed instructions to leave the collections and return every year to do so again. And so they did.
This worked so well, that I now use letter to bring almost all my commands to the boyars. Bats or ravens eagerly carry my messages to my servants, and they are obeyed. When a letter does not suffice, I have appeared before my subjects—-always utilizing my new abilities to appear as a retainer of Lord Strahd. I may be dead, but I am the land and I need to rule.
The summer collections have arrived tonight as last year. This time, the caravan of wagons unloaded its cargo. I have no need for gold, but I do have a need for order and they need to fear me. When I went to collect the funds much later, I quickly saw that I was not alone. A magistrate had stayed behind: a woman from Renika named Dagymar. She told me that bandits had attacked her caravan and taken half the gold. A likely story, I mused. She won me over however with her passion and refusal to leave until she told Lord Strahd herself. When I informed her that she had, she immediately bowed and begged forgiveness. I told her to stay in the guardhouse and go nowhere else. With that I left.
The bandits were appallingly easy to locate, especially from the night sky. Fifteen or so were gathered around a fire in the woods. They didn’t have any guards posted. No doubt they fancied themselves as the most dangerous things out tonight. They were quite mistaken. Three of them were dead before the others could draw their weapons. But they didn’t know how to strike at the shadows themselves. I defeated the remainder, killing several and then breaking the others’ will with my gaze. They would march themselves to Castle Ravenloft for a more acceptable punishment; the bodies of their friends would be left for the wolves. I left one of the bodies crucified on the road. The sign around his neck warned of the price of disobedience.
Dagymar was pleased when I told her the gold had been recovered. She was rightfully afraid of me on my return, but I offered her no harm. After all, I had fed on the thieves and saw no point in her demise. She thanked me for saving her honor and asked me what other service she could render. I wondered if she was trying to increase her position in life, or if she was truly that loyal to a lord she had never met. Instead of testing her honor, I ordered her to leave and take a payment of gold for her trouble. She would return to her hovel and tell stories of how Lord Strahd single-handedly dealt out justice. She would never know that she was standing in the presence of death that night.