Baba Yaga Documents
The Prisoner's Dilemma
The journal of Serafima, a Russian political prisoner from the gulag...
I knew it was a mistake when I threw the drink in his face. But I did it anyway. I thought Minister Dyatlov's shocked look would be worth the loss for funding my research. I was a fool. The KGB bastards knocked down my door before dawn.
Five years. A work camp. They no longer have the spine to call it what it is, they call it "Freedom Station". Liars. It is a Gulag. I promised myself I would not let them break me. But I wept for mercy in my first week.
I must find a way out. There is a guard, a red-cheeked boy named Ivan, more sweetness than sense. It pains me to use one so guileless as he, but I will not rot here.
A Good Man
Serafima's fate was bound up with Ivan's from the moment they met...
Ivan... I thought it would be simple. Most of these rough, stinking thugs take what they want from the prisoners. I chose Ivan because I thought that he would bend. But it is worse than I thought. He is a good man.
He does not want to be here anymore than I. That sentiment holds little weight when he eats well and sleeps with a blanket, but I credit him with a moral compass these others lack. This place sickens him. He knows his part in it, hates what he does. I caught him pushing back, when he thought no one was watching, to calm his guilt. I told him it was not enough. Showed him how to do more. We worked well together. Planned our escape.
But it is too late. I am pregnant. We are damned.
They took everything from Serafima...
I never held my daughter. They took her from me on the surgeon's table. I tried to fight, but they are many, and I am weary. Then they dragged me away, split our three hearts apart.
They have taken me to a hidden vale where ancient ruins stand. They tell me if I cooperate, I will see my family again. I will never trust these monsters, but I do not have a better plan.
There are curious flowers here... Exposure to the pollen has left my captors rattled, and they will go no further than our little outpost. They brought me here in the hopes that my expertise in botany would help them find a counteragent. At last, the State has a use for me...
I nod and smile. I play the part. But they cannot break me again. For my daughter. For Ivan. I will live.
Research notes from a familiar Soviet prisoner, tasked with discovering a cure for the hallucinations.
It's been weeks since those bastards dragged me from the Gulag, from Ivan and my daughter, to this strange Vale. They have tasked me with finding some way of counteracting the unusual effects of the pollen that hangs in the air.
Now, I believe I have a formula that may work:
An extract from the seed pods of the plant
The liver of animals that consume the flowers and have metabolized the toxins
A Phenothiazine deriative
The last ingredient is a risk. They have it in large quantities around the Gulag, where it is used as an insecticide. It may also act as a rudimentary antipsychotic, bearing a chemical similarity to other compounds I have studied. Or it may be poisonous.
I will try the mixture on myself, tonight.
Serafima learns of Ivan and her daughter's death, and makes a fateful decision.
There was a revolt. A bomb. The native people, the enemies of my enemies, rose up, striking out as we had always dreamed. Ivan and our daughter might have known freedom, but instead... They are dead. Killed by the only people that might have saved us.
The Soviet cowards with me in the Vale say there is nothing left, that we must await rescue. They say they will protect me, but they jump at the dark and supplies run low. There will be no rescue. I will live, and my captures will not. Survival is the only truth in this world.
They are a superstitious lot. I slip the potion into their rations. And when they are reduced to weeping husks, I will show them a new face, something they have feared since childhood. Baba Yaga. Grandmother Serpent. Witch.
They will die, screaming in terror. They deserve so much worse. If I cannot live free, then I will survive alone, in the shadows, until death reunites me with Ivan and our child.
Grandfather Ivan must have written this for Nadia...
Nadia, my Granddaughter. By now you already know: I am going into the Vale to kill the witch, Baba Yaga. I have gone to seek revenge for your Grandmother. There are newcomers in our valley, armed men arriving by helicopters. I do not know what they want, but I know if I am to go, this is my last chance.
You deserve to know the truth, to know why. Your Grandpa is not a wise man. I have become, with hard work, a good man, for your Grandmother's sake. But it was not always so.
I came from the West, where even a small village has thousands of inhabitants. I was a lazy young man, and I dreamed of an easy life when I joined the Party, a comfortable desk in the big city. But they sent me here, to the ends of the earth. To watch men and women work and starve and die. To participate in their punishment.
I knew it was evil. But I did not know how to fight. Until I met her.
Ivan describes meeting Serafima for the first time, in the Gulag.
When the guilt of working in the gulag became too strong, I would lash out. A stolen screwdriver. Misplaced paperwork. Futile gestures that would never balance the scales. One day, I was caught taking a stupid risk.
Your grandmother, Serafima... she spoke up, took the blame. They beat her, mercilessly. But I was saved. When I found a moment to thank her, she spat at my feet, told me I had risked my life for nothing. Challenged me to do more. You have so much of her in you, Nadia.
At first I thought her cruel. She gave me no credit for my little acts of disobedience. That place, the gulag... it crushed hope and ate what little scraps of dignity remained. Every day I did not fight it with my whole heart, she said, I was complicit in atrocity.
She demanded my honesty, because she knew I was capable. It was the greatest kindness anyone had shown me. And I loved her for it.
Ivan and Serafirma planned to escape together, but they were caught...
We decided to wait until the winter passed. We hid supplies, we made maps. We planned. I got her a work indoors. She helped me find ways to slow down the grinding gears of the Gulag. If I could disable a hydraulic lift, I could keep a hundred men from one day in the mines. Cut the wiring of a few trucks, there would be no special work projects for another week.
I took greater risks. But once I had met your Grandmother, I could not return to the sin of ignorance. We knew that the child would complicate our escape, and she hid it as long as she could.
And then, without warning, they took her away. Our daughter was given to a nursemaid among the native prisoners, and they dragged Serafima away to the Vale.
I tried to stop them, fighting in the open. I stood in front of the transport truck, prepared to kill to save her. But there were too many of them. I screamed my farewell as they dragged me away. I don't know if she heard.
The Gulag Burns
Ivan and his daughter survived the fall of the gulag, but Serafima did not...
They put me with the other Russian prisoners. I could see the hate in their eyes, and I didn't blame them. To them, I was just another instrument of their humiliation and degradation. I didn't tell them what I had tried to do. It could never be enough.
When the revolt came, I was ready. The native prisoners, the ones the Gulag recruited from this very village, were kept apart from the Russians. They had known of my resistance, and that kept them from killing me, along with the other guards.
I held my daughter, your mother, for the first time as the Gulag burned around us. The people of the village took us both in, and against their own superstition, agreed to help me rescue your Grandmother from the Vale.
Among the Remnant
Ivan lived among the Remnant, all the while dreaming of revenge...
The officer wandered out of the Vale, just as our rescue party prepared to enter. His body bore the marks of torture, a sight we knew well.
The Witch descended on them during the revolt, killing Serafima along with her captors. He told us of the house that walks, of her fearsome voice, a child's story made flesh. He died the next day. Baba Yaga leaves no survivors. I wanted to go on, to bury your Grandmother, but no one would enter the Vale after that.
In the village, I learned to be a good man. I lived, to honor her. I worked hard, but I dreamt of killing the Witch, every night. I might have gone, years ago, had the fever not taken your mother. I stayed for you, Nadia.
I am a lucky man. I lived a good life I did not deserve. A new fight is coming, but it is not mine. If I am to find revenge for Serafima, it must be now. I go to kill the Witch. To lay your Grandmother to rest. I will not be coming back.
The Lost Engineer
Best Laid Plans
The founders planned to build a great shrine in the Vale...
It is my great honor to have been given the responsibility of overseeing the construction of a shrine to the apostles, out in the far vale. The site is on the very borders of our newly founded City, through a distant canyon. The natural waterfalls and geothermal springs grant us an amazing opportunity to use our combined knowledge to create a place of solemn worship and reflection that glorifies not only the memory of the Apostles, but also our own recent advances in construction.
Already, we have outpaced the Empire we left behind. We will arrive in the morning, and break ground on a shrine to honor our past and the future of our city.
As construction progressed, they must have come in contact with the pollen...
Construction on the shrine continues. We decided to build our shrine at the top of the Vale, high in the cliffs above the river. In the lower parts of the Vale, where we quarry the stone, we constructed an aerial lift to bring cargo straight to the shrine.
With all our success thus far, I cannot ignore the ill omens. The two-headed wolf pup I found, dead in the forest, or the strange noises at night that no one can identify... And the murder, first in our new city.
Two journeymen were feared lost in a side passage collapse. But one emerged, two days later, raving mad and covered in his companion's blood. We are no strangers to violence, but I cannot shake the feeling that we have crossed some forbidden, invisible threshold.
The Coming Madness
They had no idea what was happening to them...
I have suspended all constructions at the Shrine and ordered the workers to prepare for the return trip. I should have left weeks ago, sought advice from our city's wisest. The violence increased, slowly at first, and I passed it off as raw nerves, pressure to succeed, but now it cannot be denied that something evil inhabits the Vale.
It preys on our worst nature, makes us susceptible to dark suggestions. Yesterday, a young stonecutter brought me news of scaffolding collapse that ruined much of the days work. Before I knew what was happening, my aide had to pull me off the youth, who lay bloodied and insensible.
When I washed my hands, I found a fragment of his teeth embedded in the flesh of my knuckles. I do not know myself any longer. It is time to leave.
The Last Word
By the time they decided to flee, it was too late...
I am the last. There are others, wraiths who haunt the Vale, but they are no longer human. They wear familiar faces, cry out for help in the voice of dead friends, but I will not believe their lies. My sword keeps them at bay, or quiets them if they will not stop screaming.
I tried to lead us to safety, I did. But someone collapsed the passages leading back to the city. Once we realized there would be no escape, we turned on each other. Now, a madman with a bow is perched high above the Vale, and he brings down the message- birds I sent with pleas for help.
The wraiths return, more than I can drive away. No one will survive this Vale. Perhaps it is for the best. Let these, my last words, be a warning.
A dispatch from Bravo Team, before they entered the Vale...
Initial contact was made with the elderly native male at 07:00. At first we believed he was participating in an assault on the facility, but he proceeded away, and through an unmapped canyon.
We received authorisation to pursue at a distance, and already we've encountered ruins and other promising signs. We're trying to keep calm out here, but this looks like a big find. That discovery bonus is as good as ours.
They were unprepared for what they found...
It's all wrong.
Lost the old man entering the Vale. Lost Fisher. Lost Parker. Just... Gone. No trace. Can't trust the eyes. Seeing things. Corpses. Worse. Things that walk, so huge they hide the stars.
Can't tell what's real. Not sure there is a real. Is it the eyes?
The eyes have to go. My hands are steady now. Billings goes first.
Stop. Hold still.
Demon in the Dark
The pollen drove them mad, and then, she revealed herself...
It's dark. The others are out there. Can hear them panting. Moment of clarity, but it's slipping. Coming less frequently. We're sick. Poisoned. Something. Doesn't matter.
Forgot why we came here. Forgot where we were before. Barely remember who I am.
Someone else here. Walking amongst us as we grovel and weep. A spirit. A goddess. A demon.
She is whispering. We listen.
The Witch's Army
She broke them down, and built them back up, to serve her.
It's her. Always been her. At the margins, in the dark, always there. She... She is what we came here for, we just didn't know it until now.
She is the center of the world. She can make the fog swirl and choke our minds. She can give us clarity. She spoke her name, Baba Yaga, and our wounds healed.
We are nothing and we are here.
We will do as she commands. We were made for this.
Camp Journal IV
I can't make sense of what I experienced in there...
I don't have the words to describe what I just saw. I went inside the Wicked Vale, looking for Nadia's Grandfather, but I barely escaped with my life. It was like... a fairy tale, but through a broken, filthy mirror. And... Dad... I know, intellectually, it was all in my mind, but... the gunshot is still ringing in my ears. There's something terrible going on in there, and while I don't believe that it is magic, it is... extraordinary. I have to find out what's behind all this, but first, I have to find a way to see clearly...
It won't be easy, for any of them...
Nadia's grandparents, split apart by the Gulag, are reunited. They all have a long arduous road ahead. Serafima wore the mask of the Witch for so long... I don't know if she will ever be able to fully return to the world. And Ivan dreamed of killing the Witch, to get revenge for his lost love, but they were the same woman, all along. That wound he nursed for decades won't heal overnight. They're survivors. We all are. But it will be difficult, it will feel impossible some days, I know. At least they'll have a fighting chance, now that we know the truth. It may not be enough, but it's a good start.
Dreams in the Witch House
The Witch gains control of the Vale...
This Vale is mine. I have watered the ground and cultivated the dreaming blossoms. No one will enter, no one shall leave. I will not endure the outside world any longer. Here, at last, I am in control.
The Witch dreams of what she has lost...
I speak to myself, if only to hear another voice. It fills the space and the hours, but I have nothing to say. When the quiet overwhelms me, I try to sleep. I dream of what I've lost. I hope they died well. I hope that my dreams are only lies.
Not Worth Living
The Witch teaches the lessons of the Vale
I thought I survived to spite my tormentors, but now I think I survived to spite myself. This is not a life worth living. No life is. There are new people in the valley, I will teach them that this existence is not worth living.