The Curse of Janisar

I've been giving some consideration as to how I might refine the curse that Janisar suffers so that it is more poignant and more damaging to his psyche on a daily basis.

Janisar "von Terg"

Janisar was born during the years of turbulent fighting between Barovia and the Tergs. He grew up among hardened warriors, camp followers and priests of the Terg god Za'far. The Tergs had conquered Barovia, in the year 320, but the height of their power was a relic of the past. Janisar's boyhood was punctuated by one tragic loss after another, as his family and friends were vanquished by the determined efforts of Barovian troops largely led by Strahd von Zarovich. His hatred for the Barovians, and Strahd in particular, grew stronger as the years progressed. When the last stronghold of the Tergs fell in 347, and they were forced from Barovia, Janisar was among those forced to flee through the bitterly cold mountain passes.

Beyond the peaks of the Balinok Mountains, the young barbarian grew tall, strong and bitter. He began agitating for his fellow Tergs to join him in retaking the lands they had lost, and his message spread like wildfire among disaffected Terg youths. Certain priests of Za'far gave sermons which incited others to follow his vision, for they could not abide the devil Strahd's sway over the lands claimed by the faithful. In the spring of 352, as the snow of the winterbound passes gave way, the maddened horde of Tergs who followed Janisar's banner stormed into Barovia once again.

Janisar's horde met little in the way of resistance. Indeed, it seemed as though Strahd and his bedeviled minions had disappeared from the world. Like wolves on the hunt, the Tergs raced through the land seeking their quarry. One evening, they came upon the city of Rookhausen, by the sea, and Janisar's scouts reported to him that they had passed all the way through Barovia without a trace of Strahd or his people. Janisar cried out that it must be a trick of the devil Strahd, swore that he would taste the blood of his enemies ere he saw dawn again and ordered his troops to assault the city. As the battled raged out of control, and each atrocity joined another barbarous feat, mists rose from the sea and spilled across the blood-stricken city. Janisar, his bloodthirsty troops and the doomed city entered the realm of Ravenloft. The barbarian warlord should have bled to death from his innumerable wounds, but instead he became an immortal beast, a vampire who has plagued the city for more than four centuries.

Since that fateful evening, Janisar has been trapped within the city of Rookhausen, unable to successfully achieve his revenge upon the Barovians and surrounded by an effete decadence which vastly exceeds that with which he long credited his devilish foes. For a time he struggled to control the wily, serpentine aristocracy of the city, marrying his favored warriors to various Balok-blooded nobles and even helping them foster a House or two. Sadly, the Dark Powers looked to Janisar's illiteracy and cursed him to remain ignorant of the ways of the people he had conquered. In more than 400 years time, he has been unable to learn the Balok tongue spoken by the original inhabitants of Rookhausen and the majority of the city throughout its history. He remains unable to read, and indeed has failed to learn to speak the tongue of the Darkonese or any other culture despite the age-increased intellect his vampiric nature has wrought. When he lurks in the dark, waiting to feed on the blood of his fellow man, more often than not he cannot understand a single word that is being spoken, and is left alienated by the culture around him.


Janisar von Terg is cursed by the Dark Powers. Part of his curse is, of course, the fact that he has become a vampire, forced to feed upon the blood of his fellow man in order to prosper. On a more personal level, he has been trapped within a culture which is alien to his own, through his own doing, and he remains unable to completely adapt to it.

Curse Version #1: Janisar cannot learn any language, nor can he learn to read. He is trapped in a state wherein the only language that he can speak is Terg. This is part of why he has long supported the Terg population of Rookhausen despite the fact that it is a minority. He speaks one single language - Terg - and he cannot read at all. He once could travel about his domain, stretching from the Devil's Rock to Wight Hill and from Northfen to Southmoor, but now the Dark Powers have restricted him to the Lower City. Outside of the Lower City remains his domain, but he must control it via border closing, remote minions and the like. Meanwhile those around him remain inexplicably beyond his ability to understand, ever. He is constantly faced with the fear that he may be left unable to speak to anyone, if the Terg tongue fades into obscurity someday.

Curse Version #2: Janisar had Intelligence 13 before his curse was set upon him. As such, he understood a second language already. The young warlord knew the tongue of the Neureni, the barbarian tribe which had invaded Barovia less than a century before his own people did. Once he was trapped within Rookhausen, he experienced the same terrifying feeling that the sole language(s) he spoke were doomed to cease to exist. Ultimately, however, Janisar met the Gundarakite refugees who came to his domain from Barovia. They were descended from the Neureni tribes, and their modern tongue Luktar was similar enough that Janisar realized that he could understand partial phrases and occasional ideas. With haphazard and stuttering speech, Janisar could ken the words of the Gundarakites whose land has been usurped by Strahd, and he has been cultivating a headquarters for the Gundarakite resistance ever since then.

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Janisar is written and copyright Conrad Hubbard. Ravenloft is copyright Sword & Sorcery under license from Wizards of the Coast. Nothing on this page is meant to contest that copyright.

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