Lost in the Mists
Sixth of the Tenth Moon, 396 Part II
Of course Leo would hide in a temple. A monastery like this would be quite a barrier to me. No doubt the swine had gleaned some of my new nature that night.
The monks never ventured towards Castle Ravenloft, but they would journey into Barovia frequently. I knew early on to avoid them, as their blind devotion could damage if they turned their attention to me. But if the monks did not know the danger, I should be able to get past them.
The Monastery of the White Sun was formidable. Running water encircled it; another barrier to me. Luckily, there was a large stone bridge that would allow access to even I. Years of prayer had created passive wards throughout the temple. As such many of my natural powers would be hampered at best. But the magicks I had learned since my change would still work, as well as my more subtle powers. I knew I needed to act fast, so I left Loviana’s keep and arrived at the monastery an hour later.
Using basic polymorphic spells, I changed my appearance to that of a road weary traveler. I told the monks that greeted me that I sought shelter from the night. The priests seemed to know the dangers that were lurking in the Barovian darkness, and eagerly brought me inside. Stepping into the church felt like stepping under a waterfall and it took great effort to keep my composure. My hosts noticed, but believed that I was truly exhausted from my race to their door. They gave me over to a portly scribe who was to lead me to my room for the evening.
As the guards left and the scribe led me down one of the torch-lit hallways, I muttered a word of power. The scribe stumbled and groaned, seized by magical confusion. I grabbed hold of him and gazed deep into his eyes. Even in this oppressive place, I could still mesmerize the weak willed. I asked him at once where Leo Dilisnya was. He did not recognize that name, but I described the lion brooch that Lady Loviana saw. This the scribe did recognize and mumbled that my fellow traveler was in his study. I told the scribe to wait for me to return and left quickly.
The door to the library was unlocked and I rushed into the room with an almost frenzied zeal. My bloodlust almost resulted in my doom. As soon as I entered the room, I was seized by terrible pain. The door closed and I realized that the entirety of the room was covered in holy wards and layered with prayers of the faithful. It felt as if a web of molten lead had been poured over me and sent my body crashing to the floor.
I could barely look up to see Leo standing over me. He truly hadn’t aged; no doubt some kind of magick to slow his aging significantly. He looked at me with the same mocking smile he had the night his men shot me.
“My, it took long enough for you to come here. Loviana finally convinced you?” he gloated. For a moment I thought Lady Loviana was aware of the trap, but on second thought she was likely duped by Leo. I only was able to spit out a few syllables in response. Leo laughed and walked over to a cane. He removed the leather foot of the stick to reveal charred and sharp point.
“An ash wood stake,” he gloated, “do you really think I’ve been awaiting your attack with dread? No, no, my Lord Strahd, I’ve been preparing for this since that night,” Leo mocked. I could only stare at him. The combined weight of the temple’s piety and the wards of this room removed all my power. If I didn’t think of something I was surely doomed. Luckily, Leo had evidently been preparing this monologue for years too.
“You pathetic worm,” he continued, “you’ve squandered your gifts. I’ve been practicing the Art masterfully since I escaped your little rampage. What have you been doing? Frightened a few peasants with zombies? Tortured some trespassers? Wept over some low-born whore? ‘The Devil Strahd’ indeed!”
Every inch of the room was inlaid with prayers that shown with silvery light. This piety did not come from Leo, he had no faith but in himself. He must have had the monks do this, tricked them into aiding him in some way. Then I remembered the scribe outside. I began to focus, utilize some of the spells I rarely practiced. I focused all my remaining energy and sent the command. Leo showed the point of the stake to me as he continued.
“You should have died that night in the dark. None of this would have happened. You would have been mourned and forgotten. I would rule this land. How did you know? I assumed Alek told you. I wonder what happened to Alek after all. He certainly was missing the night of the wedding…and I know I didn’t kill him. And I didn’t kill Sergei,” he smiled wolfishly, “like an ignorant but vicious child you killed your brother and best friend. I guess we’re not so different. I killed my half-brother to get to you.”
“Beware, Leo…” I croaked, “you know the land has changed,”
“Indeed it has, but what of it?” he asked.
“I am the Land. If you kill me, we will all be destroyed,” I said.
“Oh, so you’ve become the great king of the land? Your inner darkness influences the realm? Without you we’d be consumed by mist? Oh, Strahd, you’re simply not that important!”
“You…must believe me…”
Leo sighed, “You never were much of a liar; too proud for that. Maybe there’s something to it. But, I’d rather be destroyed because I defeated you than die of old age in this cursed kingdom,” Leo raised the ash stake and brought it down towards my heart.
It was at that moment that the scribe, summoned by my mental command, burst into the room and knocked Leo’s weapon from its path of doom. Leo stumbled back to face the sudden intruder and for a moment took his attention from me. The opening of the door was enough to disrupt some of the pressure of the wards and allowed me to get to my feet. I had no time and limited power, so I did the only thing I could. I grabbed Leo and buried my fangs into his throat. He was paralyzed by the magick of the bite and offered little resistance as I drank deep his lifeblood.
I was careful to stop before his life was extinguished. I was not through with him yet.
I commanded the scribe to fall asleep and forget everything that had happened. I spared his life and the lives of the other monks, mostly because I didn’t want to draw too much attention to this place. I slipped away like a shadow with my prize.