Argynvostholt, 4AM – those remaining of my team rose from their sleep. Kasimir set out to learn the spell fireball. Marja sent Animal Messenger as many times as she could as a ritual, to the towns, to our allies, to any she could find who would join the fight for the survival of the realm. Radovan and Ismark went through our copious amount of treasure and dished out the most useful items, potions and scrolls. I, however, went hunting for the sabre toothed tiger that Van Richten had trained to kill Vistani.
With the spell Locate Creature, and in the form of a raven, it took little time at all to find the beast as I flew over Berez, but more importantly, I noticed I was being signalled by the standing stones there. It was my fey benefactors. They explained to me that I had to end Strahd by midnight or the realm would slip into the Shadowfell, taking everyone with it. I realised that Esmerelda had gone to her doom with false knowledge: she thought there needed to be a dark lord to replace Strahd, and had thought to become that being. With that knowledge, I spoke to the tiger, who thankfully decided to ally himself with us. He invited me to ride him, and we realised that already, the distance between Berez and Agynvostholt was negligible.
We arrived back in time for me to help Marja send off her Animal Messengers with the message for everyone to meet us at Bonegrinder. The tiger, who we dubbed Euphrates, was wary and respectful of Marja’s wolf Word. I spoke with everyone to gauge their energy. Radovan was terrified but with me all the way. Ismark was angry that Ireena had been captured and eager to begin. Kasimir was eager to get the crypt and save his sister. Marja was eager for it all to begin, for this is what she had been here for all along.
6AM – a service for Donavich in the courtyard of Argynvostholt. I put his ashes into Radovan’s care and we all spoke a few words. I talked about everything he had overcome to be with us, like his son’s death, and his addiction. Radovan talked about his kindness. Ismark talked about what he used to be like before I came to Barovia. Marja talked about his strength of faith. Then we set off to rescue Kasimir’s sister.
In the form of birds we flew through the gathering storm, buffeted by the wind and the rain. We saw below us on the road a trashed Vistani caravan and the body of Madame Eva, exsanguinated. Looked as if Esmerelda had gotten her revenge. We continued on and spied the massing troops of undead and unholy in the courtyards of the castle, so we avoided those and went through the hole in the roof by the library and from there down to the crypt. The halls were eerily quiet and we progressed without harassment. We went to the crypt and Kasimir’s skin went more and more corpselike as he used his new power to raise his dead sister. The two of them reunited, we all left and returned to Bonegrinder to meet the assembled forces of good. Marja, Kasimir, his sister Petrina and I all went to rest and recover while Ismark and Radovan organised the people arriving with the help of Lanna the minotaur and Father Petrovich from Vallaki.
4PM – that afternoon I rose to the bad news: Kasimir had been killed by his sister, who had fled to rejoin Strahd. We were bitterly sad but had to carry on with our duties. The Martikovs had arrived by the end, so I gave Davien the gem Champagne du Stomp, and he gave me a tearful hug.
8PM – Godfrey and the assembled forces of Argynvostholt arrive to aid us, and the general for the army is chosen – Radovan, of all people!
9PM – we march. Radovan manages to hit one of the guardian dragons of the castle right in the eye, starting off the battle with a grand gesture of defiance. Blinski saves his life with a thrown toy, and Gertruda managed to save Davien’s life too. Everyone was here for the final battle. While he leads the army, Godfrey, Ismark, Marja, Euphrates, Word and I snuck in via the highest tower to the chapel. Before we went in we summoned Daylight on myself, Marja and Godfrey before Strahd could dispel it.
We headed down the stairs to find Strahd at the altar, Ireena laid out on it, and all his elite guards waiting to attack. Strahd ignored us while Godfrey opened with turn unholy, which made many of our enemies turn and run from us. But Strahd still threw spell cancelling effects at us. Animated armour and chapel pews attacked us, along with a vrock, wraiths, rats and vampire spawn, one of which we recognised as Petrina. As Strahd bite into Ireena’s throat, Esmerelda leapt from the balcony and impaled him on Kahzan’s staff. He missed her with disintegrate, but still she realised he was too powerful and she was fighting a losing battle. So she broke the staff.
Taking the full blast, she disintegrated. Strahd took a hard hit, Ireena rolled off the altar, and all enemies attacking us, besides the vrock, fell down inert from the blast. We took damage too, but not enough to down us. Our potions of invulnerability had really paid off. Godfrey smote the vrock down. Strahd cast a fireball which downed half of us. Then, as I felt unconsciousness flow up to meet me, suddenly I heard a voice and felt a presence. Donavich told me to stand, and I and the others found ourselves standing, reinvigorated. We all converged upon Strahd to slay him, and finally the holy symbol I had taken from Donavich’s body began to burn with the brightness of the sun. Suddenly, he was mist.
He flowed down into the floor and we ran down the stairs to the crypt. I flew in the form of a raven, and left the others behind in my haste. I realised where he was going: the crypt that had a teleport trap on it which Godfrey had fallen into. I flew right past that to arrive in Strahd’s crypt.
The man himself was there, still, eyes open, in the coffin. I walked forward and with stake and mallet, drove the wood into his heart. He screamed. He cried. He begged. All the while, my hammer pounded, steady. The one who had caused such pain and death, he who was so above us mere mortals, was pathetic and desperate at the last.
When it was over he was dust.
Naturally the party was the next day. It lasted for nearly a week, and I don’t remember all of it, except the sunlight was bright and the realm was reconnected. I definitely remember Marja and I using the spell Awaken on Word and Euphrates. They weren’t very impressed with us, as they didn’t think talking was a very impressive activity. Also, Marja and I called down an earthquake on the mountain to hide the Amber Temple.
Over the time, several different things came to pass. Blinski told me and Radovan of his plan to build toys of such a great scale they would need an entire park to themselves. The Martikovs departed, returning with all three gems to the Wizard of Wines. The Vistani, carrying the cautionary tales of Esmerelda and Madame Eva, moved on. The dusk elves who were left went with them. Ismark was elected burgomeister of Barovia, and in that village the church became the church of St Donavich. The wolves of the realm were dumb animals again, and the barbarian tribes have decided to try and either civilise, or to open up trade negotiations. Radovan was probably the most respected thirteen year old who has ever existed. I don’t think he’ll be king of the realm though, seeing as there’s no castle anymore, and everyone agrees they don’t want a monarch again.
Speaking of the realm, it is connected to the Prime Material again, but I don’t think we’re in Faerun anymore. This means I can’t get the children of Daggerford back, and I have lost Matilda my mule, as well as all my friends on that plane. But we can only move forward…
… Most of us, at least. For Ireena never really belonged here, and Sergei came to retrieve his bride. They walked off into the air, over the cliff beyond the ruins of the castle, and vanished into the sunlight.
I retired at one point to the crypt of King Barov and Queen Ravenia, the only place I knew none of my companions could follow me into, guarded as it was. There I sat for a time, thinking on those who had died. I mourned for Kasimir, who had wanted nothing but to set right the wrong he had done and save his sister. I mourned for Van Richten, whose writing had been a great help to me, despite his tragic flaws. I mourned for Esmerelda, now that I had time to feel sad rather than angry. She thought she was doing the right thing, and she didn’t realise we were there for her, she didn’t have to do it all alone. But she had been far too hurt to do that.
I mourned for Ireena, though she was in heaven and happy. Mostly I mourned for what might have been between us, in that brief time before she realised her true identity and fate. I mourned for Donavich. Though he was sainted now and would never be forgotten, I remembered him as a fat, jolly, and very flawed fanatic friend who stood by me even when we disagreed. Already the iconography of his church was forgetting the truth, lionising the man and creating a dim image of the truth. I mourned a little for Godfrey too, for though he was at peace now, he and all his order, I appreciated his help and sense of humour.
Finally, I mourned for a man who had tried, in his own way, to be my friend. I had tried to save him, I had tried to find a way for us to co-exist. Was there every any hope? Or was this always the way it would turn out, in all possible worlds? If I had tried just a little harder, could I have saved the soul of Strahd von Zarovich?
Some questions have no answers. But Marja, Word, Euphrates and I have agreed to journey together and seek the answers to the ones that remain. The biggest question left, the cause of all of this, we shall seek along the roads and in the darkest reaches of the world:
Who is Tenebrus?
Here ends the diary of Dirwin, slayer of Strahd, he who wears the pelt of Sangxor, the man who is both raven and the crocodile…