Ninth of the Eighth Moon, 745

Disappointingly, Azalin Rex has returned to the Mists.

I had heard rumors of the Lich King’s return for weeks, but noticed no change in the Necropolis. My suspicions were confirmed when I heard of Vlad Drakov’s disastrous defeat at the hands of an undead horde. The Impaler retreated back to his domain and Darkon once again has a protective barrier of zombies and fog.

Curiously, the Necropolis is as it has been these past five years. Apparently, the entity calling itself Death is still in power and the Necropolis is a sub-realm within Darkon.

Azalin must be positively enraged to have his kingdom back, but its fabled capitol beyond his grasp. I sent him my condolences through spies and anxiously await his response.

The machinations of the Gentleman Caller continue throughout the realm. He is an ominous specter, sowing discontent and chaos in his wake. It appears that he avoids Barovia deliberately, which is disappointing—- fore I wish to know what game he is playing.

Destiny is a game, is it not? I wonder who has the next move.

I believe that whatever caused the Great Upheaval has changed the rules of this realm somehow. I don’t know what is different, but I have become convinced that I can find Tatyana once more. For months after the cataclysm, I patrolled nightly and sent my spies into the mists—-searching for anything that could be a clue.

My search ended earlier this year. A cadre of vampires led by an ostentatious vampire master named Baron Melker entered the Barovian woods and asked for parley. Vampires not of my own making rarely come to Barovia—-out of justifiable fear that I do not enjoy competition. Needing a distraction from my studies, I agreed and met the band on the Svalich Road.

In the moonlight, Melker awaited my approach with his spawn cowering around a carriage behind him. I stepped out from the shadows and Melker bowed slowly.

“Hail, Lord Strahd of Barovia, Master of the Mists and victor over the Lich King Azalin,” he said. I chuckled at his pathetic flattery.

“What brings you to my domain, whelp?” I demanded.

Melker sneered at the dismissal, but continued, “I come to your land, Count Strahd, seeking asylum for myself and my brood,”

“There’s more than enough, vampires in Barovia. Take care to leave before first light,” I said as I turned back to the shadow. Melker appeared briefly panicked. Clearly he was fleeing something and sought the safety of my domain. I smiled thinking about his fear.

“I have brought a gift, and offer my services to you in exchange for asylum,” he stammered. I paused, thinking about the strange changes in the Mists these many years. I turned back toward the vampires and nodded slowly.

The creatures scrambled around the carriage and they quickly opened the door. They led a young girl out of the carriage and brought her to Melker. She was dressed very simply and she made no motion that would betray fear. As she looked at me, the moonlight illuminated her face and her gaze met mine. It was like a thunderbolt, taking my breath away as it always did.

The girl was Tatyana.

Of course she was far younger than she had ever been. She looked different this time as all others, but aas before it was her. How wicked the Mists were! Now they had given me Tatyana again, but this time she was a child. My mind was reeling, but I realized that this cruel trick was easy to overcome. Time did not affect me. I could wait, wait until she grew into womanhood. And then she could join me in the darkness.

Melker noticed by shock, but couldn’t truly understand why. “My Lord, the Vistani have told me that Count Strahd prefers fair maidens. I have brought you the fairest I have found in my travels.”

I ground my teeth in rage. How dare he think that I would harm Tatyana. But I couldn’t let that show. I needed to get her to the Castle where she would be safe.

“Indeed, the gossip of the gypsies prove true,” I said, “come to me, my dear.” I called to Tatyana. Melker frowned, but stepped aside and allowed the girl to walk towards me. She reached me and I knelt down close.

“Did he harm you?” I asked. The girl shook her head. That cooled my anger somewhat. I needed to get her to the Castle immediately.

“Melker, your tribute is acceptable. You and your brood will have asylum in my land for the next moon. You may prowl anywhere and claim any prey you find, but you may not hunt within the villages themselves. I will call on you within a fortnight with tasks. We will revisit our agreement at the next full moon,” I said.

The vampires bowed low and faded into the shadow. As Melker started to leave, I asked him a question that suddenly came to mind.

“Where did you find her?”

“A new domain called Mirdeus,” he responded.

Ninth of the Eighth Moon, 745

Lost in the Mists ignatiusvienna