Twenty Fourth of the Fifth Moon, 413

The monotony of this existence has given way to something extraordinary. I feel an excitement I haven’t felt for half a century. Do I dare to hope for forgiveness?

I had the good sense to allow “Strahd von Zoravich I” die off some years back and be replaced by his sickly son. Strahd the Younger had the same orders as his father. It was interesting to see all the flowers that were sent with the taxes that year. Perhaps the people were trying to buy favor with their new lord.

With Berez’s tax money this year, a note from the burgomaster arrived. Burgomaster Lazlo Ulrich had heard that Lord Strahd II had the same interest as his predecessor in magickal tomes. In this, Ulrich was correct and I quickly made my way to the hovel of Berez shortly after sunset.

The people met Lord Vasili meekly and directed me to the burgomaster’s manor. A decaying place it was, and gave away the fact that Ulrich was in need of money. If his books were valid, he would have it. If he had wasted my time, he wouldn’t need it. I met with Ulrich, a fat greedy man, and viewed his books. They truly were spellbooks, but they were old and moldering. It would take months for me to transcribe them. But that task seemed pleasant to me and I paid Ulrich handsomely for the lot of them. I eagerly wished to return to the castle and made way to leave. And then Ulrich’s servant girl came into the room and I felt as if I had been struck in a distant, but very familiar way.

The girl that came into the room was Tatyana.

She looked different. Her hair was much darker, she was shorter, her dress simple. But her eyes were the same, and I knew with every fiber of my being that this young girl was Tatyana. How could it be? Had the mists that took her that night brought her back in another form? Why? To reward me? Perhaps I had wallowed in blood enough and this was my freedom. I croaked out her name and she looked confused. She corrected me that her name was Marina, but she seemed uncertain of that. Ulrich scolded her for answering me in such away.

She looked at me with an apology and I felt faint. I crashed onto a chair and she rushed to my aid. Sweet girl. But Ulrich knocked her away and told her to get the cleric. I almost took his head from his shoulders for such an act, but I needed to be careful. Brother Grigor of the White Sun raced back into the room with Tatyana. I leapt away from the priest’s touch, for fear of what may be revealed. I apologized to the priest and the burgomaster, complaining of an old war wound and battle-shot nerves. I implored them to let me go for an evening walk in the cool air to refresh myself. And I asked that “Marina” keep me company.

They granted my request and I walked with her in the garden. She was confused, and perhaps frightened. We were silent for a long time.

“Do you remember me?” I asked finally.

“My Lord, I’ve…never met you before,” she said.

“Marina, I’m going to tell you something that will be hard to believe, but you must trust me,” I said desperately.

“Yes, Lord Vasili,”

“Long ago there was a beautiful woman named Tatyana. She was betrothed to…Lord Strahd von Zoravich,” I said. She gasped at my name. “Have no fear,” I continued. Lord Strahd loved Tatyana more than anything else in this world. He cherished her; she was to be his queen. They were going to be very happy together and rule for decades. But dark magic and dark deeds conspired against them. Traitors murdered Strahd’s family and an evil spell took Tatyana away. Her loss plunged this land into darkness.”

“That is a frightening story,” she whispered.

“It’s no story, but it is frightening,” I paused. “But now fate has brought her back.” I took her hands as she began to realize what I was saying.

“It’s you, Marina, you are Tatyana. The magic has brought you back…to me,” I said. She shook her head.

“My Lord? You must be mistaken. I’m no princess, I’m just a peasant girl,” she said, but I could see her beginning to doubt. “You said I had been brought back to—-you” she whispered.

I saw fear in her eyes then, certainly from all the dark stories told of me. I looked deep into her eyes and said, “Remember, Tatyana.” I knew that memories of our walks, and the night that should have been our wedding night, were swimming in her mind.

“Elder,” she said. I shuttered at the old title. “I love…”

“Strahd. You love Strahd, Tatyana. And I will not lose you again.” I vowed.

“I love Strahd.”

“Yes, Tatyana, I love you too. I will take you away from here and bring you to your home in the mountains beyond the forest.”

Her eyes became sleepy and visions of the great castle clouded her mind. “Yes, Strahd, take me—-“ she said.

For a moment, there was a distant memory of when I last heard her voice say those words. And I remembered it was not Tatyana that said them to me. But I didn’t care. She had come back to me. She had been reborn into a life free of the darkness and blood of her last. The gods that had punished me had given me a second chance. I had suffered long enough.

I pulled Tatyana close to me and our embrace turned into a kiss. I began to kiss her neck as she moaned my name. I knew what I had to do to make sure she was mine forever.
Her blood tasted better than anything in this world.

I was careful not to take too much, for I knew how the magic worked. For her transformation to be full, it would take three nights. Tatyana was sleeping when I finished, and I took her into the manor.

I told Ulrich that the girl had had a fright in the dark and fainted. I pretended to be indifferent as a lord would be with a peasant, but I was hardly able to contain myself. I told the Burgomaster that I would return the next evening with more money for the remainder of the books.

Two more nights, and then she would be mine forever.

Twenty Fourth of the Fifth Moon, 413

Lost in the Mists ignatiusvienna