A Light in Darkness
History of the World
Throughout the centuries there have been several major periods of change in the Demiplane of Ravenloft. As far as anyone knows the first Domain to be pulled into the Demiplane was Barovia, domain of Count Strahd von Zarovich. For this reason, and because it is so central, most domains in the core use the Barovian calendar and its language is widely known.
Formation: 350 to 449
The first year of Ravenloft’s existence is marked as year 350. For the first 100 years Barovia floated alone, bordered entirely by the Mists of Ravenloft that had pulled it from its home world.
Arrival: 450 to 549
This is the period in which the mysterious Vistani arrived in Barovia. They established an uneasy alliance with Count Strahd. It isn’t known where they come from, or how they navigate the Mists and foresee fate, but they are unlike any other race in the Demiplane. Also during this period the Lich Azalin appeared in Barovia.
Expansion: 550 to 649
Although the first new domain to border Barovia, Forlorn, arrived in 547 the third century was a period of explosive growth for the Demiplane. During this time more than a dozen new domains appeared all part of the same contiguous land mass. Centuries of isolation left Barovia highly xenophobic and suspicious of their alien neighbors. The new lands had their own languages, customs and religious beliefs. Nearly without exception, residents of Barovia did not seem to find the sudden appearance of new lands bordering their own unusual. They were accepted as though they had always been there, even if their residents were not.
Dead Man’s Campaign: 650 to 734
This period of time is characterized by the wars between Falkovnia and Darken. Vlad Drakov, Lord of Falkovnia, sent countless men to their death in Lord Azalin’s land of Darken. It seems clear that the warrior Drakov did not comprehend the magnitude of Azalin’s power over the dead and refused to accept the waves of his own undead warriors marching back across his borders.
The Grand Conjunction: 735 to 740
In 735, the Vistani seer Hyskosa prophesied the destruction of the Demiplane of Dread. In a grim and terrible vision, he foresaw a series of six signs that would come to pass and shatter the Land of the Mists.
Recognizing this chance to escape from his long imprisonment by the Mists, the lich lord Azalin was greatly fascinated by Hyskosa’s words. Due to his interference, however, the fifth and sixth signs of the Conjunction occurred out of order. In the wake of this mishap, chaos swept through the Demiplane. When the Mists cleared and the land was restored, the geography of the Demiplane was greatly changed. Many of the domain lords are still discovering new powers and abilities bequeathed to them during this upheaval.
The most fascinating feature of the “new” Ravenloft is the Shadow Rift. Looking much like a great chasm torn in the heart of the Core, the Rift is an area of swirling mists and darkness. Exactly what it is and what horrors it might hold remain unknown. It is interesting to note that the Vistani will not speak of the place and always make a sign of protection if it is mentioned in their presence.
The Grim Harvest: 740 to 750
During the decade of the Grim Harvest Lord Azalin created a soul devouring Infernal Machine in the capital city of then Darken. Whatever he was trying to accomplish, it seems that something went terribly wrong. Overnight the city of Il Aluk was transformed from a thriving metropolis to a ruined city full of the walking dead. A being of incredible power arose to rule the land calling itself only Death, though there is no evidence that it is the Lord of the domain.
Also during this period a new sea appeared on the eastern side of the Core. The Nocturnal Sea is filled with small islands, each their own Domain and nearly unexplored. Finally, the end of The Grim Harvest bore witness to the death of one of Ravenloft’s greatest heroes, Dr. Rudolph van Richten. He did more than any other in memory to advance understanding of the monsters that plague the world, and the very nature of its existence.
The Present: 751
This is a time of confusion and mystery in the Demiplane of Dread. Scholars wonder about the ascension of Death in the land of Necropolis. Many wonder if the lich lord Azalin actually perished in the destruction of II Aluk, fearing that he may return to torment the citizens of Necropolis as he did those of Darkon.
Van Richten’s death is a topic of concern. Some believe that his death marks the beginning of a truly vile age for the Land of Mists. Without this great champion to inspire others, will new heroes arise to face the evils that stalk the night?
Another source of great confusion and dread is the mysterious Shadow Rift. Enigmatic and malevolent, this churning pit of darkness bodes nothing but evil. No one knows what horrors dwell within its dark folds and how long the sheer walls of the Rift will contain them. The fact that it so terrifies the Vistani only compounds everyone else’s fears. There are many who have said that the gypsies of the Mists have some macabre purpose to all they do. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen. However, for good or evil, the Vistani are tied to the land like no other race.