Eyes of the forgotten

Strahd's excerpts

On His Damnation:
I am The Ancient. I am The Land. My beginnings are lost in the darkness and the past. I was the warrior, I was good and just. I thundered across the land like the wrath of a just god, but the war years and the killing years wore down my soul as the wind wears stone into sand.

All good was gone from my life; I found my youth and strength gone and all I had left was death. My army settled in the valley of Barovia and took power over the people in the name of a just god, but with none of a god’s grace or justice.

I called for my family, long unseated from their ancient thrones, and brought them here to settle in the Castle Ravenloft. They came with a younger brother of mine, Sergei. He was handsome and youthful. I hated him for both.

From the families of the valley, one spirit shone above all others. A rare beauty, who was called “perfection,” “joy,” and “treasure.” Her name was Tatyana and I longed for her to be mine.

I loved her with all my heart. I loved her for her youth. I loved her for her joy. But she spurned me! “Old One” was my name to her — “elder” and “brother” also. Her heart went to Sergei. They were betrothed. The date was set.

With words she called me “brother,” but when I looked into her eyes they reflected another name — “death.” It was the death of the aged that she saw in me. She loved her youth and enjoyed it. But I had squandered mine.

The death she saw in me turned her from me. And so I came to hate death, my death. My hate is very strong; I would not be called “death” so soon.

I made a pact with death, a pact of blood. On the day of the wedding, I killed Sergei, my brother. My pact was sealed with his blood.

I found Tatyana weeping in the garden east of the Chapel. She fled from me. She would not let me explain, and a great anger swelled within me. She had to understand the pact I made for her. I pursued her. Finally, in despair, she flung herself from the walls of Ravenloft and I watched everything I ever wanted fall from my grasp forever.

It was a thousand feet through the mists. No trace of her was ever found. Not even I know her final fate.

Arrows from the castle guards pierced me to my soul, but I did not die. Nor did I live. I became undead, forever.

I have studied much since then.’’Vampyr" is my new name. I still lust for life and youth, and I curse the living that took them from me. Even the sun is against me. It is the sun and light I fear the most. But little else can harm me now. Even a stake through my heart does not kill me, though it holds me from movement. But the sword, that cursed sword that Sergei brought! I must dispose of that awful tool! I fear and hate it as much as the sun.

I have often hunted for Tatyana. I have even felt her within my grasp, but she escapes. She taunts me! She taunts me! What will it take to bend her love to me?

I now reside far below Ravenloft. I live among the dead and sleep beneath the very stones of this hollow castle of despair. I shall seal shut the walls of the stairs that none may disturb me.

On Ravenloft Itself:
I suspect that this land is…alive. It does not breathe, it does not mate, but it does grow. It does not exist as a creature does, but it does react to the life within it. I have come to realize that it is capable of growth and change, such that it can expand to accommodate an individual who has embraced what it values and provide it with a place to call his own. I suspect it has also consumed places from beyond the Mists that constantly border this land, adding more unto itself as it desires.

It appears that, like myself, there are other souls bound to their lands. They are lord and master of their holdings, and their power within those places is terrible. But it is a gilded cage; we cannot leave these lands. Our might is beyond question or challenge, but we are prisoners in our own castles.

The Mists are a strange thing, sometimes drawing souls that are of goodness and kindness, while other times sending vile fiends and unscrupulous scoundrels into the lands. I have witnessed and understood that it imprisons many souls, and perhaps there is truth to the notion that this land is a prison for the damned. However, on rare moments, I have been informed that the Mists have acted in what one might describe as…benevolence. The Mists seem to just as easily send just and good souls out of this prison as it draws in the corrupt and irredeemable.

In my studies, I have found that no one can command the Mists. No matter their power or knowledge, it will not yield. However, I have learned that they do respond to desire. Should the desire or the need be grave enough, should it be strong enough to call out to the Mists, then the Mists will respond.

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The Dead Three

In ages past there was but one god of strife, death, and the dead, and he was known as Jergal, Lord of the End of Everything. Jergal fomented and fed on the discord among mortals and powers alike. When beings slew each other in their quest for power or in their hatred, he welcomed them into his shadowy kingdom of eternal gloom. As all things died, everything came to him eventually, and over time he built his power into a kingdom unchallenged by any other god. Eventually, however, he grew tired of his duties for he knew them too well.

Without challenge there is nothing, and in nothingness there is only gloom. In such a state, the difference between absolute power and absolute powerlessness is undetectable. During this dark era, there arose three powerful mortals – Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul – who lusted after the power Jergal wielded. The trio forged an unholy pact, agreeing that they would dare to seek such ultimate power or die in the attempt. Over the length and breadth of the Realms they strode, seeking powerful magic and spells and defying death at every turn. No matter what monster they confronted or what spells they braved, the three mortals emerged unscathed at every turn. Eventually the trio destroyed one of the Seven Lost Gods, and they each seized a portion of his divine essence for themselves. The trio then journeyed into the Gray Waste and sought out the Castle of Bone.

Through armies of skeletons, legions of zombies, hordes or noncorporeal undead, and a gauntlet of liches they battled. Eventually they reached the object of their lifelong quest – the Bone Throne. “I claim this throne of evil,” shouted Bane the tyrant. ’’I’ll destroy you before you can raise a finger," threatened Bhaal the assassin. ’’And I shall imprison your essence for eternity," promised Myrkul the necromancer. Jergal arose from his throne with a weary expression and said, “The Throne is yours. I have grown weary of this empty power. Take it if you wish – I promise to serve and guide you as your seneschal until you grow comfortable with the position.”

Before the stunned trio could react, the Lord of the Dead continued, “Who among you shall rule?” The trio immediately fell to fighting amongst themselves while Jergal looked on with indifference. When eventually it appeared that either they would all die of exhaustion or battle on for an eternity, the Lord of the End of Everything intervened. “After all you have sacrificed, would you come away with nothing? Why don’t you divide the portfolios of the office and engage in a game of skill for them?” asked Jergal. Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul considered the god’s offer and agreed. Jergal took the heads of his three most powerful liches and gave them to the trio that they would compete by bowling the skulls. Each mortal rolled a skull across the Gray Waste, having agreed that the winner would be he who bowled the farthest.

Malar the Beastlord arrived to visit Jergal at this moment. After quickly ascertaining that the winner of the contest would get all of Jergal’s power, he chased off after the three skulls to make sure that the contest would be halted until he had a chance to participate for part of the prize. Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul again fell to fighting, as it was obvious their sport was ruined, and again Jergal intervened. “Why don’t you allow Lady Luck to decide so you don’t have to share with the Beast?”

The trio agreed, and Jergal broke off his skeletal finger bones and gave them to the players. When Malar returned form chasing the skulls, he found that the trio had just finished a game of knucklebones. Bane cried out triumphantly, “As winner, I choose to rule for all eternity as the ultimate tyrant. I can induce hatred and strife at my whim, and all will bow down before me while in my kingdom.” Myrkul, who had won second place, declared, “But I choose the dead, and by doing so I truly win, because all you are lord over, Bane, will eventually be mine. All things must die – even gods.”

Bhaal, who finished third, demurred, “I choose death, and it is by my hand that all that you rule Lord Bane will eventually pass to Lord Myrkul. Both of you must pay honor to me and obey my wishes, since I can destroy your kingdom Bane, by murdering your subjects, and I can starve your kingdom, Myrkul by staying my hand.” Malar growled in frustration, but could do nothing, and yet again only the beasts were left for him. And Jergal merely smiled, for he had been delivered.

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