Werewolves in the Mist
Tome of Strahd
The Tome of Strahd is an ancient work penned by Strahd, a tragic tale of how he came to his fallen state.
The book is bound in a thick leather cover with steel hinges and fastenings. The pages are of parchment and very brittle. Most of the book is written in the curious shorthand that only Strahd employs. Stains and age have made most of the work illegible, but several paragraphs remain intact and readable.
I am the Ancient. I am the land. My beginnings are lost in the darkness of 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 land.
All goodness slipped from my life. I found my youth and strength gone, and all that 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 and I hated him for both.
From the families of the valley, one spirit shone above all others. Of 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 in pacifying the lands so that the next generation would have peace.
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 and would not let me explain that we could now be together forever, and a great anger swelled within me. She had to understand the pact, the sacrifices I made to be with her. 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 down onto sharp rocks. No trace of her was ever found as the mists swirled around the base of the mountain. Not even I know her final fate, but I can only presume her death.
One of the guests at the wedding chose this moment to betray me, and attempt a coup. 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 it’s light I fear the most, but little else can harm me now. Even a stake through the heart does not kill me, though it holds me from movement. But the sword, that cursed sword that Sergei brought! I must find and dispose of that awful blade. 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 each time, cruel fate wrenches her away from me. What will it take to make her love me?
I now reside far below castle 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.
I, Strahd, Lord of Barovia, well aware certain events of my reign have been desperately misunderstood by those who are better at garbling history than recording it, hereby set down an exact record of those events, that the truth may at last be known…
Twelfth moon, 347. At long last, the war is over. The enemy has been decimated, destroyed, or driven out. I have found a valley that lies before the ruins of the war-lord’s castle. I have taken both…
Sixth Moon, 348. Peace gnaws at my soul. I do not like it. The inhabitants of Barovia do not like me, either. I care not…
Third Moon, 349. Work proceeds on the castle. In honor of my mother, I shall name it Ravenloft. It is becoming a suitable home for the von Zaroviches…
Eleventh Moon, 349. All is in readiness. I shall call for my family, to make this cold place a home…
Fourth Moon, 350. They have arrived, and Sergei, my youngest brother whom I have never before met, is with them. How young he is, both in body and spirit! If he had not nearly bested me in sparring this morning, I would call him a summer soldier, but in all honesty, his skill is staggering. We have become fast friends as well as blood-bonded soldiers. He is suited to the new age of peace in a way that I, with the chill of death in my bones and the taste of war still on my tongue, could never be. What would I give to be him, young and carefree, with those dark good looks that captivate women? What an irony that, as he is the youngest son, he is pledged to become a priest! I must be growing old—the cold night in its futile quest for the beginning of day. Never before have I wanted a family. Now that Sergei has come, I find myself imagining a woman by my side and a child on my knee…
Sixth Moon, 350: The Most High Priest Kir has died suddenly, and Sergei has insisted I declare it a day of national mourning. Sergei must now take up the position of Most High Priest, an honour that has the lad quite humbled. He is not permitted to wear the formal garb of a priest, as he has not yet been ordained, but the clergy has given him leave to wear the Priest’s Pendant, a pretty enough bauble to which Sergei attaches a great deal of—perhaps even too much—emotional value.
Ninth Moon, 350:
I hate the Barovians! They do not know when to leave well enough alone. Has Sergei picked up the trait as well? He has developed a disconcerting habit of venturing into the village, trying to, as he says, “do some good for these people.” There, he is treated like some sort of young god. The folk throw flowers in the path of his horse and practically deafen the boy with cheering. No good can come of it. Sergei’s place is above the people, here in Castle Ravenloft, a proper von Zarovich. He should not be wallowing in peasants’ dust.
Ninth Moon, 350:
I am too shaken to comprehend what has happened. Sergei… he’s taken up with some peasant girl from the village. I thought nothing of it, except how it would dilute the von Zarovich bloodline. He brought her here, and I was expecting some potato of a woman…
I cannot write. I cannot concentrate when I think of her. Even the first look at her has undone me. Her intelligence, her kindness, her wisdom, her beauty. She calls me brother, and has love in her eyes for my younger brother.
Every glance sets fire in my heart.
I must find something, some spell, some potion, that will make that angel mine. I must! There is nothing I would not give to win that woman!
I heard a voice, and this is what it said to me"
“I am every nightmare every creature has ever had. I am the dark thoughts of murder and treachery, of fear and lust and obscenity and violation. I am the cutting word that kills the soul and the bloody knife that kills the body. I am the poison at the bottom of the cup, the noose around the thief’s neck, the cry of the wronged, and the shriek of the tortured. I am the lie. I am the black pit of madness. I am Death and all things worse. You know me, Count Strahd von Zarovich. We are old, old friends, you and I.”
“You have fed me well. You are due your reward. You hunger for your brother’s betrothed, for your lost youth. I shall remove the rival from your path, and you shall age not one day more… if you do as I tell you.”
GODS! GODS! WHAT HORRORS AND MIRACLES HAVE BEEN wrought here today! My hand trembles as I write, but from grief or joy I cannot say. I shall endeavour to put down events as clearly as I can, so that I may read them later, when my mind is calmer, and try to make sense of it all…
Tenth Moon, 400: She has come back, come back to me! I have been granted another chance! My beloved Tatyana has been given new life in the body of a villager named Marina. Marina looks exactly as my dear Tatyana did, but there is something subtly different about her. I cannot say what. In truth, does it matter? I have begun to court her. Surely, this time, I shall make her mine…
Twelfth Moon, 400: There is none so cursed as I. Tatyana, my love, is dead once more, this time by her father’s hand. The fool said he would rather see her dead than my bride. I slew him at once, of course. I slew the whole family. In my rage, the land answered me. The waters of Luna Lake rose in a torrent, and washed Berez away. Then I returned to these prison walls to nurse my grief. Darling Tatyana, will I never hold you in my arms and see you look at me with love?
Fourth Moon, 475: Again, Tatyana has returned. I believe this terrible land is testing me, trying to make me prove my love. This time she goes by the name of Olya, but I know the truth. She bears my beloved’s face, although she acts not at all as Tatyana did. It is as though a part of Tatyana is missing from this otherwise perfect picture, as though Olya is a not-quite-finished work of art. As before, I care not, and I will bend her love to me…
Fourth Moon, 475: I cannot bear the torment! To have almost had her and see her slip away from me yet again! A fever claimed Olya, they said. Nothing to be done, they said. But no one came to me, to see if there was anything I could do!