Innistrad is not a place of life. It’s colors are deep and dismal, it’s people sturdy and sullen. But there are times of triumph. Singular times that stand out as proof that this doesn’t need to be the way things are. The world is not black and white. The harvest moon has begun to set. A new chapter is left for the outland valleys, a place even those from Stensia thought inhospitable. And for those brave enough to change the world; They find a need to change along with it.

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Tatyana was dead.
Sergei was dead.
Maurer wasn’t sure what he was.
The deal was simple and perfect. A conception bathed in a sense of infamy, but answered by the urgency of nobility and want. The Markovs had been generous that day so long ago, lit by candles and surrounded by stone and blue blood. Edgar Markov was a smart man, a calculating man, one who spoke of need and duty. The blood of Stensia would live on he proclaimed loudly, his hands staining black crimson in the basin of prepared elixir. And they followed. One by one, marching to his new tomorrow. Toward an eternity beyond death. Even then Strephan Maurer was mad. Even then he was a fool.
And even now, he waits for an eternity, not fearing his coming hunters.
Death awaits.

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It is not the sound of thunder that heralds footsteps
Nor the valor of Soldiers that bring us the rain
The mountains are not cities
The moon is no blade
And though a man is not a force
Not earth
Nor death
A man is more than blood and breath
Perhaps we are not the angels
But they rally to our call
To all the fearful
The harmed
The sullen
Look to your brothers and hear their prayers
Let their courage become your own
And the radiance of their zeal break the shadows
To us
To Avacyn

Poem by Saint Traft, penned five days before his death

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In the memories of granite peaks and gray-green pines, Strephan Maurer was a fixture of Stensia. Not a god, though that was a word lost to the minds and lips of its people. He was a force, like the capricious wind and rains. Eternal, inexorable. Yet some people, crazy all of them, thought he could be killed.

In the Inland Valleys they wrote him off as a loss. The vampires were a menace to all, but the grace of angels could only be asked for so much. And where his domain stayed nestled in the outland valleys, away from the cities and homes that comprised much of the province. He was a bad dream, but not the nightmare the Markov or Voldaren families were. And so he was a thought for those inside.

Krezk stood resolute, recognizing his might but shying from his shadow. It was too hard to hold your ground against someone you fear. The Baron and Baroness would not be cowed however. Their voices were for their people, their prayers were within their hands, and their blood was of the mountains. They were Krezk, in name, body, and soul. But they were defenders, not warriors. And a bet was too much to take.

Still smelling of burnt Hawthorne and collared by martial law, Pallas was fraying at the seams. It had been a long time since it had been whole, unmarred by the stains of blood and dribble of sycophants. Long enough that the folk expected it. And endured it. The shell of the Wachter clan had no sway any more, and barely enough thought to contemplate their twice cursed fate. The family Martikov maintained their inn, hoping drink and passion could bring some light into this darkness. But a gentle glow does little to an abyss. And the Inquisitor Seeta feared a flash in the pan, a misleading light to drag those further into the dark like a corpse candle. That fiend was too much for anyone, despite her prayers to the otherwise. But she wanted to stand for this town and these people. A shield. An aegis. But she could only hold for so long.

And sunken below the castle’s reach was the broken town of Shadowgrange interred in the vampire’s grasp. The people there were husks, barely living their day to day. The shopkeeper had forgotten kindness, relying on foolhardy folk and need to bring him business. The priest lost to uncertainty and fear. And the man known as Ismark was worried and perplexed in the rising dawn. And in the weary hearts of those warriors of ours at the church perhaps there was uncertainty too.

But despite the pain and fear, there was still a truth: They fought off his wishes, maybe his best: And won. So here we are. The final hour. And it’s approaching dawn.

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Raya and Izolda were always together. Twins in shape and spirit. Blood of their blood. From birth under the azure skies of Gavony to their abroad studies in Nephalia and travels with stuffy parents. And when one fell, their carriage turned and destroyed, they fell together. And there was nothing that Strephan Maurer liked more than vanity. A matched set, immaculate but for the blood marks against their feet. He put care in, his focus on his new pets, soldiers, dolls. Eventually he grew bored, and moved on. But Raya and Izolda were still together, still strong together. And the world was so weak to the wills of those willing to put in the effort. And the charms of young children, a hidden vampire was more than enough for most. But they learned their might, of magic and skill. They had eternity to learn. As long as they were together, they would never fall.

As long as they were together.

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