Strahd’s voice echoed down the long throne room of Castle Ravenloft. Maps cluttered a small table sat before the throne.
“I am here, my lord,” responded the sickly dusk elf as he emerged from the shadows.
The vampire lord sulked in his throne, glanced at a map of his realm, and tossed it to the floor.
“My lord?” asked Rahadin. Strahd’s troubles were known to all his servants, but the seneschal dared not presume his lord’s intent.
Strahd’s eyes flared red. “I have no patience for your games right now, Rahadin. You know why I am displeased.”
Rahadin quickly retrieved the map and placed it on the table. “Yes, my lord, the adventurers have not accepted your invitation.”
“Damn my invitation! I see now inviting them here was a mistake. This group is not like the others.”
“I don’t understand,” said Rahadin.
“When I faced them at Yester Hill, the priest, Elodin, called upon his god to drive me away.”
“Yes, this has happened before, my lord.”
“This was different. When my playthings enter this realm, they no longer commune with the higher powers they worship. Oh, they think they do, but is the Dark Powers who respond to their prayers and grant them spells and powers. Clerics, druids, warlocks… It’s all the same.”
“This is known,” Rahadin replied.
“It is, but when Elodin called upon the god, Amaunator, and his light burned into my flesh. I felt it, the true divine light of a god of light.”
Rahadin saw the grimace of pain on Strahd’s face, but he did not allow his master to see he had noticed it.
“That’s not possible, my lord.”
“I felt it! That was not the obfuscated power of the Dark Powers, the Vestiges. It was the divine might of Amaunator,” said Strahd.
“Have… Have they weakened?”
The thought chilled the dusk elf to the core. The Vestiges were all slivers of divinity, pieces of dark gods left behind. Alone they were no longer gods and goddesses, but together they were powerful enough, no divine entity had ever been powerful enough to penetrate this dimension.
Rahadin backed away as his lord rose and began to pace the room. The vampires slow, methodic footsteps echoed like a dark heartbeat.
The vampire stopped midway across the room and stared at Rahadin. “That is a mystery we must unravel. My spies tell me the adventurers are on their way to Amber Temple. I will leave immediately to commune with the Dark Powers there. I want you to gather the Dread Guard.”
“My lord! The Dread Guard,” questioned Rahadin.
“I do not like to repeat myself.”
“It has been centuries. Surely, surely most of them are dead!” Rahadin lowered his eyes to avoid his master’s glare.
“Each of them is bound to me, Rahadin. They share my immortality. I would know if they were gone.”
The Dread Guard were Strahd’s strongest minions, his personal guard when he was a mortal man, now twisted into vicious monsters. If they still lived, they were centuries old, maybe even millennia. The dusk elves were brought to Barovia hundreds of year ago, Rahadin among them, but Strahd was already ancient by then.
“I… I did not know, my lord.”
“It seems there is a great deal you do not know, yet still, you continue to question me.”
“My deepest apologies. I will send for the Dread Guard and instruct them to come to Castle Ravenloft immediately.”
“All but Drauglir.”
The name hung in the air and death swept into the room to join it.
“The Pale Wolf,” asked Rahadin.
“You will find him on Mount Baratok. My pack of lycanthropes has been wiped out, but truth be told, they had grown weak. I allowed Kiril to play his games and the pack suffered for it. When it came for them to play their role, they were wiped out too easily.”
“They had grown soft, my lord,” Rahadin remembered his lord’s disappointment when Kiril’s pack had been wiped out and how easily he fell to the adventurers.
“I want Drauglir to hunt the adventurers. I want him to kill them, or as many as he can before they reach Castle Ravenloft.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Hurry now, I will be leaving soon.”
Rahadin did not like tempting the vampire’s ire, but he feared his punishment if he neglected this final duty before he left.
“My lord, and what about our guest?”
“I had almost forgotten about him. Send him in and I will speak with him before I leave for Amber Temple.”
“Very well, my lord,” said Rahadin.
“Rahadin, what is his name again?”
“His name is Mephistopheles.”
“Mephistopheles? Quickly send the devil in. We have much work to do and very little time.”