Thirtieth of the Ninth Moon, 350

To say that “the world will never be the same” after an event is often a pathetic cliché, but I find no other way to describe what has happened.

Sergei and I communicated through notes arranging his return to Castle Ravenloft and the introduction of his bride-to-be. The day arrived early this morning. This time I did not meet him at the drawbridge as I had when he last was welcomed to the Castle—- I had to save some face.

I met them in the courtyard; standing alone as Lady Ilona was tending to other matters and Alek is still away. Sergei stepped out of the carriage and bowed to me. I returned the bow subtly for I was still angry about his inadvertent display of tax misappropriation. He then embraced me and apologized for our fight, I reluctantly accepted his sentiments. And then he escorted Tatyana and presented her to me. She stepped out of the simple carriage and looked at me.

I have never seen a more beautiful woman in my whole life.

To compare her to other women actually falls short. It would be like comparing the bright midsummer sun to the feeble light of a candle. And I just stood there, basking in her radiance. She was dressed in a simple white gown, evidence of humble origins, but she wore it like it was made of the finest silk. I think my heart stopped when her emerald eyes met mine.

“Elder,” she said as she bowed low. The pain of that title cut me deeper than the Ba’al Verzi blade. For the first time, I was glad Alek was not there—-for he would seen through my front. I implored her to rise, genuinely eager for her to face me as an equal. I tried to offer my welcome and invited her to stay with Sergei in the Castle. I told her that this would be her home forever. She must have felt like the lost princess from legend returning to her home. She smiled at me, causing my knees to grow weak. But then the smile turned from me to Sergei. And I saw the truth: she loved Sergei, and it was the purest, deepest love ever.

In that moment, any love I had for him was replaced by envy and hatred.
We dined that evening and I tried to appear distant, but kind to them both. Inside I was burning with desire, and a deep sense of loss. Sergei sat there, in the brightness of his youth, and I sat in the darkness of my faded life. I have squandered my youth to win a home for my dead parents, a brother who won’t journey here and a new brother who has everything I ever wanted. This loss fed the abhorrence growing in my heart. As she laughed and gazed at Sergei, the blackness invested my soul.

I had asked Sergei’s permission to take Tatyana on a walk through the courtyard that night; a request he eagerly accepted. His desire to please me filled me with disgust, but I smiled and took his wife out in the court. I briefly thought of grabbing her by the hand and running out into the moonlit forest, but I was able to contain my passion. We talked, I asked her of her life and dreams. She answered, no doubt thinking I was just going through motions etiquette required. The truth was I was enthralled by her, and every answer showed that she was perfect. We quickly ended and brought her back to Sergei, for fear I may not be able to control myself. I bid them good night and retired to my chambers.

It’s hours later and the moon has long set. I have yet to sleep. Why has she come now, when I’m too old and broken to make her mine? Where is the justice of the gods that Ilona speaks about?

The wealth. The power. The land. None of it means anything without her.

Thirtieth of the Ninth Moon, 350

Lost in the Mists ignatiusvienna