The sky was black as sackcloth above the parapet. The Master of the Castle peered down on the village of Barovia from the High Tower of Ravenloft. A thick wall of mist surrounded Castle Ravenloft, but he could see through it, gazing on the distant lights of Vallaki. He reached out with his supernal senses and followed his minions closely. His creations were assaulting the villagers, seeking to destroy the foolish gypsy and her guardians. He could see through the eyes of the undead assailing the town, and watched as they were destroyed one by one.
After a few hours, he could no longer sense the battle, meaning it was over. No more troops could be mustered and sent to Vallaki before dawn. The saviors of Vallaki would be coming to the Castle with the sunlight. In the darkness, Strahd was deep in thought. He had suspected that these heroes were assassins sent by Azalin, cutting their way through the Mists to reach Ravenloft. After watching them and learning from them, he doubted it. They appeared noble in purpose, even if there was darkness in some of them. Strahd had suspected that the stories of the “Heroes of Miredus” were exaggerations, now he was unsure.
It was no matter. Other heroes had come to Ravenloft to destroy “the devil Strahd”, scores of them in fact. All of them failed at the task, going to their graves in defeat. But these heroes—-they were different. Strahd hardly had to wonder why: Tatyana. Every time Strahd had had her, every time he was close to winning her, she was taken from him. Vampire hunters, fever, chance—-all had cheated him. This time he kept her safe, locked away in the Castle, but now the Dark moved against him once more and sent sinister agents in the guise of holy adventurers.
The Dark. Strahd had come to suspect that the land he inhabited with Azlain, and all the other wicked lords, was a prison. And if there was a prison, there must be wardens. The dread within this land was almost palpable; it seemed to have a specific malice and intent. These Dark Powers were there, torturing Strahd as he tortured others. Perhaps “They” were the beings that came to him that night so long ago, seduced him into killing his brother and then taking his prize. If that was true, then he was a fool and everything he had done had been to benefit them in some unknowing way.
Strahd shook his head bitterly and his gaze smoldered in the darkness. He refused to believe that. His will, and his will alone had led him to where he was. He would break free and take Tatyana with him. And the Dark Powers that held the keys must know that he would be free soon. They manipulated this group on their path, leading them to a final confrontation with him. It was all so theatrical, so dramatic. There must be a malign intelligence moving the pieces into play for its own amusement.
We each play out the part Fate has written, Strahd mused. Somehow he knew that this battle would be his last. In victory or defeat, this would be the end of something: either of his imprisonment or his existence. But his will was the strongest. He was the Master of Ravenloft. No one would stop him, not this time. Not these heroes. Not the malevolent entities that ruled this prison.
Tatyana would be his.