Lost in the Mists
Sixteen of the Sixth Moon, 351 Part III
The mist was thick as the soldiers walked towards me. They knew I was there but could not see me. No doubt they heard my weeping. I had given up everything, made a deal with Death itself and still I lost her. I could hear them, they wanted to kill me. I didn’t care.
The mists quickly blew away and then we could see each other. A dozen men, with bows and swords, stood before me. With mocking laughter, they drew their arrows and fired. A wooden bolt pierced my shoulder. Then another hit my stomach. Then another. It didn’t hurt. No doubt the pain in my heart was greater. One of the men rushed to my side and buried his blade deep into my chest. Blood poured from my wounds, though I noticed not as much as should have. I let out a sob.
Laughter greeted me. The leader stepped forward and removed his helmet. I looked into the eyes of my old friend: Leo Dilisnya.
“A Von Zarovich weeping? How wonderful,” he mocked. Leo leaned down and spit in my face.
“Why?” I croaked, but sensed I had more of a voice than I should have.
“Why not? Your family took from mine for a hundred years. I helped you gain back your lands only so I could gain them once again,” he responded.
“The Ba’al Verzi…?”
“Yes, Strahd, me all along. Alek was too good at protecting you and I had to sacrifice Illya to throw you from the scent. But that doesn’t matter anymore now that I’ve defeated you. My only regret is that you beat me to killing your brother and his whore,” Leo mocked.
Alek. He had protected me. He was my best friend. Even as he died by my hand he had warned me that the Ba’al Verzi was still stalking. What a fool I had been.
My head was swimming. I felt a black rage and hopeless despair—-but there was no pain. Was I dead? And then I heard the laughter of my dark benefactors. You will live forever, they said. She called me vampyr. I wasn’t going to die. Not tonight. Not ever. The thunderous laughter revealed Their ultimate plan. I howled in rage, and my cry had more strength then it should have.
Leo lept back as I stood up. The men gasped and started firing more arrows as Leo fled. By the time they turned to run I had seized the nearest one. His soft throat yielded to the strength of my fangs and I drank deep his lifeblood. After a moment I discarded him while swallowing the flesh of his throat. I turned to the fleeing killers and fell on another thug that was too stupid to quickly flee. I raked his body with newly formed claws, embracing the shower of gore that sprayed from his body. Another man fell to his knees praying. When he mentioned Pelor’s name, it felt like a hand slapped my face. But there was no mercy left in my heart. I put out his eyes with my fingers and began clawing at his throat.
When I finished with him I stood once again. Looking around, I saw that Leo had fled the Chapel with most of his men. No doubt Leo was already gone, knowing multiple ways out of the castle. His allies on the other hand were likely still inside. I rushed forward, racing towards the main hall of the castle. I passed many corpses on my way, all bodies of the wedding guests. Nobles that I had despised lay butchered next to my loyal retainers. I swore I would make these murderers pay.
I reached the main foyer and found a small group of my guards there with weapons drawn. One was on the ground dead, fresh blood leaking from his throat. They saw me approach and knelt immediately. I stepped into closer view and they all gasped. I had forgotten that I was covered in blood.
“Report,” I demanded. They explained that they had beaten back the assailants, but Leo Dilisnya had escaped. I told them to leave the castle immediately, and pledge their services to one of the Barovian nobles. They left quickly and I was alone in the foyer. But I wasn’t alone for very long.
“What have you done, Strahd?” Lady Ilona said as she stepped out from a joining room.
“What I thought I needed to do, Ilona,” I replied simply. She gave me a long and knowing look, and shed a tear. I wonder how much she actually knew, or how much she would truly cry knowing the whole thing.
“I’ll pray for you, my friend,” she said.
“Do not bother. Prayers are wasted on the dead and the damned. Leave here, Ilona, and do not ever return,” I said. She should have been afraid, maybe she was but didn’t show it. Very wise of her. Ilona said nothing else and walked out the main door.
After a few minutes, I walked out into the front courtyard to the gatehouse. With a simple command of the levers, I raised the drawbridge. Leo may have escaped, but his men hadn’t yet left the Castle.
And I would make sure they never would.