Official Biography of Vlad Ţepeş Drăkulya

Defending Sovereign, Church, and Country from the Forces of Darkness

[Webmaster's Note: The following information, though based on historical facts, has been altered in small ways to fit with the background of the Sir Differel stories.]

The Voivode Vlad III Ţepeş Drăkulya was born in Sighişoara, Transylvania, in December 1431 to an unknown maidservant who died in childbirth. His father was Vlad II Drăkul, "the Dragon", the son of Mircea I cel Bătrân. His second wife, Princess Cneajna of Moldavia, the eldest daughter of Alexandru I Muşat cel Bun, took the child as her own, believing she was barren, but she would later give birth to her own son by the elder Vlad, Radu III cel Frumos. The younger Vlad already had two older half-brothers from his father's previous marriage, Mircea II and Vlad IV Călugărul. The younger Vlad grew up in Sighişoara under the care of his adoptive mother until he turned five. In that year, 1436, his father became voivode and the ruler of Wallachia, and he had the younger Vlad and Radu brought to Târgovişte, where Vlad was tutored in combat skills, geography, mathematics, science, languages (Old Church Slavonic, German, and Latin), and the classical arts and philosophy. In that same year, Vlad was initiated into the Order of the Dragon, the same chivalric order his father belonged to, and he acquired the title of Drăkulya, "the Son of the Dragon".

In 1442 when Vlad was eleven years old, his father was deposed by rival factions in league with Hungary. With nowhere else to turn, the elder Vlad fled to the Ottoman Empire for support in regaining his throne. He agreed to pay tribute to the Sultan, Murad II, and to deliver his two youngest sons, Vlad and Radu, to the Ottoman court as hostages. The Turks kept the elder Vlad as a "guest" for a year, then sent him back with sufficient force to retake Wallachia in 1443. The younger Vlad and Radu, however, remained at the Ottoman court. Radu collaborated with his captors, eventually converting to Islam, entering the service of the Sultan's son, Mehmed II, and given the title of Bey along with command of the Janissary troops. Vlad on the other hand stubbornly defied the Turks and verbally abused them, for which he was imprisoned, whipped, and beaten. During this time he came to hate the Turks, the Janissary, Radu, and Mehmed. Furthermore, his natural jealously over his father's favoritism towards his two older half-brothers was enflamed by his feelings of betrayal over the elder Vlad trading him to the Turks and forsaking his oath to the Order of the Dragon to fight them.

In 1444, a year after the elder Vlad regained Wallachia, the younger Vlad at the age of 13 was released into the custody of Yusef ben Mustafa, a Turkish scholar of Jewish ancestry who was a Christian. He taught Vlad forbearance and patience, allowing him to get along with his captors without actually capitulating to them. He instructed him in logic, the Turkish and Persian languages, the Quran, and works of literature, as well as games of skill such as chess; he also taught him alchemy, awakening a fascination for the mystical powers that would occupy him all his life, and beyond. Furthermore, being as Vlad now showed respect to the Turks, they taught him warfare and horsemanship alongside Radu. In this way, he learned that even a hated enemy could teach him things he could benefit from, and so he cultivated a cold and ruthless attitude to replace his original hot rage.

In December 1447 when he was 16, rival factions in Wallachia once again allied themselves with Hungary and rebelled. They trapped Vlad II in the marshes outside Bălteni and killed him, then marched on Târgovişte, seized Mircea II, blinded him, and finally buried him alive. The younger Vlad bore no love for his father and eldest brother, but his loyalty to his family was strong, and he was outraged by the treacherous actions of the Wallachian boyars and the intrigues of the Hungarian royal court. He persuaded the Ottoman Turks to help him take back the throne. For their part, they had no desire to see Wallachia become a part of Hungary, so they were easily convinced. They invaded, and after a year of fighting finally routed the pro-Hungarian forces, and installed Vlad on the throne in 1448; he was only 17. As soon as the Turks withdrew, however, the Hungarians invaded and forced Vlad to flee. The Hungarian regent, János Hunyadi, placed Vladislav II in charge and left a strong garrison to guard against the Turks.

Vlad fled to Moldavia to live under the protection of his uncle, Bogdan II. While there, he took advantage of the fact that at that time Moldavia was a haven for alchemists and other mystical scholars to learn more about magic. He had reasoned that if he could not win and hold Wallachia by force of arms, even those of the Ottoman Turk, then he would need to find other means, and black magic seemed the best alternative, though he would stop just short of selling his soul to the Devil. During this time, he learned two important lessons that would have a profound affect upon him. The first was that, unlike in the Ottoman Empire, charlatans abounded in the Western nations. Vlad knew enough from his studies with Yusef to recognize them, and his anger at their fraud ignited the cruelty for which he would become legendary. He came to believe that betrayal of trust was the worst of crimes and should be punished by the severest means possible. For the most part, he turned such frauds over to his uncle, but the worst of them he dealt with himself, and thereby refined the methods of torture and execution for which he would become infamous.

The second lesson was that, despite prevailing superstition, black magic, or more correctly the Dark Arts, was not infernal. As such, he could learn as much as he needed to achieve his goals without fear of Eternal Damnation. Though he was changing into a more cynical, worldly individual, he still held firm to his Christian faith and his Draconian oath to battle all enemies of God and King.

In 1451 when he was 20, his uncle was assassinated by a usurper, placing him in danger. With nowhere else to go, he fled to Hungary, despite the risks. Hunyadi had him arrested, but treated him well as a fellow prince and kept him as a distinguished guest. During subsequent conversations, he became so impressed with Vlad's knowledge, his understanding of the mindset and inner workings of the Ottoman Empire, and his hatred for the new sultan, Mehmed II, that he reconciled with Vlad. In 1452, Vlad, 21, met and married Cnaejna Bathory of Transylvania, and she gave him two sons: Radu, born in 1453, and Vlad IV Ţepeluş, born in 1455.

When, as Vlad predicted, Mehmed conquered Constantinople in 1453, Hunyadi made him an advisor. Once again, Vlad took advantage of the opportunity to learn what the local scholars could teach him, especially in alchemy and magic. He started collecting grimoires at this time, and he also learned of the Scholomance, a legendary school of the Dark Arts.

In 1456 when Vlad was 25, the Ottomans invaded Serbia and besieged Beograd. Hunyadi led a counter-attack and broke the siege, but he subsequently died of the plague. Vlad, meanwhile, led a contingent into Wallachia, where he defeated his enemies' forces and killed Vladislav II in hand-to-hand combat. As a result, he became voivode and began his second reign. A year later in 1457, he married Jusztina Szilagyi of Moldavia, a cousin of Mátyás Hunyadi, the son of János Hunyadi, known to history as Matthias Corvinus, who was finagling to claim the Hungarian throne. The marriage was arranged by Mihály Szilágyi, Matthias's uncle, in the hope of gaining Vlad's support for his nephew becoming king. Vlad bore no love for her, but he understood the advantage of an alliance with Hungarian royalty. However, when he met her for the first time, he found her beautiful and became smitten with her. As such, when Matthias was elected king of Hungary later that same year, Vlad allied with him. She would eventually give him two sons, Mihnea I cel Rău in 1459, and Mihail, in 1460. He did not divorce his first wife, but they remained cordial for the rest of his life.

He found Wallachia in a shambles. Constant warfare had destroyed trade, severely reduced agricultural output resulting in starvation, and greatly increased crime. He realized that if he wanted to turn things around, he needed to reinvigorate the economy, strengthen the defenses, and stabilize his own political power. He began by building the peasants new villages and clearing land for farming to boost agricultural production. At the same time, he helped Wallachian merchants stimulate local trade by restricting foreign merchant trade to just three market towns. He created new and very severe laws against thieves and robbers, punishing them with torture and death, and he applied his brand of justice equally, punishing everyone the same regardless of age, gender, religion, or social class. He both increased the size of his army and built fortifications around Wallachia, the most infamous of which was Poenari Castle in the mountains above the Argeş River, which he used as his personal stronghold and retreat. And he enacted numerous building and improvement projects to both enhance the quality of life and his own prestige.

But it was in stabilizing his own political power that he displayed the bloodthirsty ruthlessness for which he would become famous. Of the three major threats to his rule, including the Hungarians and the Ottomans, he believed the greatest was the Wallachian boyar class, the ancient nobility of which he was technically part. He not only understood that they would try to undermine his own position to prevent him from becoming too powerful and might even try to overthrow him, he also blamed them for the constant strife that kept Wallachia weak as they vied for power among themselves. He wanted to exterminate them all, but he needed an excuse. Fortunately, they had already provided one. Though he had no love for his father, Vlad II, or his eldest brother, Mircea II, they had been popular with the people. As such, in the name of revenge for their deaths, he began a systematic eradication of the boyars that would last throughout his rein. His greatest atrocity in this regard was when, in 1457 at the age of 26, he rounded up all the boyars of Târgovişte and the surrounding area. The very old and young were immediately put to death, while the rest were marched to the site of the ruins of Poenari Castle and forced to rebuild it, men, women, and even children. None survived the ordeal; those who did not die during construction were impaled after its completion.

In place of the boyars, he filled positions on his council with persons of obscure birth and foreigners, and lower offices with knights, the bourgeois, and free peasants. These were people who would be loyal only to him and not their families, their social standing, or their own ambition. As well, they knew their prestige was tied to him, and what would happen to them if he fell out of power, so he knew they would be diligent in protecting his position. The boyars were not alone in facing his cold wrath, though. They were allied with the Saxon nobility of Transylvania, and Vlad retaliated against them by cutting off their trading privileges and raiding their cities. He also put himself on guard against the Dăneşti clan, who were the chief rivals of his own Drăkulyşti clan for the voivodeship, and went after any member he considered to be a threat. As with his own nobles, he used their possible complicity in the deaths of his father and eldest brother as the overt excuse for pursuing his vendetta, while his true concern was over their likely attempts to usurp him.

Vlad treated the boyars and his other enemies in the same way he punished criminals or anyone who committed dishonest acts of which he did not approve. While he used a variety of methods, including torture, burning, skinning, roasting, boiling, drowning, and dismemberment, as well as variations of an equally gruesome but non-lethal nature, his favorite was impalement, because it combined torture with death. Impalement involved inserting a sharpened stake into the victim's body and setting it upright. It was a slow, agonizing death, with victims sometimes taking days to die; corpses were often left to decay for months. Vlad liked to arrange the stakes of multiple victims into geometric patters. One of his favorites was placing them in concentric circles outside of cities he planned to attack. The height of the stake usually indicated the rank of the victim, but there were exceptions. One time outside of Braşov in Transylvania, he feasted among a forest of impaled victims. A servant waiting on him went around holding his nose, and when Vlad asked him why, he replied that he could not stand the stench. Vlad ordered him impaled on a stake higher than all the others and said, "I have placed you up there, so the stench cannot reach you." This story also illustrates his rather macabre sense of humor. In any event, his liberal use of impalement earned him the title Ţepeş, meaning "the Impaler", but he liked it so much he added it to his name.

His methods were severe, even for his time, but while he had a cruel streak nurtured in the "care" of the Ottomans, his punishments were not intended to satisfy sadistic pleasure, but to send everyone a clear message: if you cooperate with me, live honestly, obey my laws, and do not oppose me, you will be rewarded with prosperity, but if you betray my trust in even the slightest way, you will be punished with a slow and agonizing death. He understood the power of what we would now call the "carrot and stick" approach, and he encouraged the spread of stories that reinforced this message, whether they were factual or invented. One that was true involved a foreign merchant doing business in Târgovişte, who had a bag of gold stolen out of his cart. He complained to Vlad, who ordered a thorough search for the thief. That night, however, he placed a bag containing the same number of gold coins plus a few extra in the merchant's cart. When the merchant found it the next morning, he counted the contents to make sure it was all there and discovered the extra coins. He immediately turned the bag over to Vlad, stating that it wasn't his. Vlad then explained that he had tested the merchant to see if he was honest; had he kept the bag, he would have been impaled. As a reward for his integrity, he let the merchant keep the extra coins, and furthermore granted him special trading privileges. The thief, however, when caught was impaled.

Regardless of the morality of his methods, they worked very well. In only a couple of years he turned Wallachia around, creating a safe, prosperous realm that was the envy of the Balkans. As a symbol of this change, in a public ceremony he placed a gold chalice studded with gems and precious stones at a public fountain in the central square of Târgovişte and announced that anyone who wished to drink the water may use it for that purpose. Though he set no guard or watch on it, it remained unstolen for the remainder of his rein.

The Ottomans, however, and especially Mehmed, had not forgotten him. Vlad II had never paid the promised tribute, and despite his animosity towards his son, Mehmed still considered Vlad III a vassal and he hoped to bring him completely under his sway. So in 1459 when Vlad was 28, he sent him envoys to demand that he pay the tribute, which amounted to 10,000 ducats and 500 young boys to be trained as Janissaries. For his part, Vlad had no intention of honoring any agreement his father made with the Turks, and he finally felt secure enough in his rule to honor his oath to the Order of the Dragon and defy the Ottoman Empire. As such, when the envoys were brought before him, he demanded that they remove their turbans as a sign of respect. When they refused, as he knew they would, he ordered them seized. Saying, "Let me make it so that you will never have to remove your turbans again," he had them nailed to their heads. When news of this reached Mehmed, he realized that Vlad had broken with the Empire, and he vowed to remove him at all costs.

That same year, Pope Pius II called a council of European leaders in the city of Mantua and called for a new crusade against the Ottomans. The Congress half-heartedly endorsed his request, and in January the following year the Pope declared the crusade. Unfortunately, the effort failed because no leader showed any enthusiasm. Mehmed took advantage of this and proceeded to seize all the Balkans and Greece to the southern shore of the Danube. Ultimately, he wanted to control both sides, because the river allowed ships to come down all the way from the Holy Roman Empire and attack him. Unfortunately, the northern shore was controlled by Wallachia and Vlad. He was the only European leader to show any enthusiasm for the crusade. He saw it as his chance to fulfill his oath to the Order of the Dragon. As a result, the Pope held him in high regard, much to the chagrin of King Matthias and the remaining boyars.

To neutralize Vlad, Mehmed sent emissaries into Wallachia to incite the remaining boyars to revolt, promising them aid. When Vlad learned of this, he captured as many Turks as he could and had them impaled, then retaliated with raids across the Danube. In response, Mehmed authorized the recruitment of Wallachian men for a special Janissary force. Though the recruiters and those they swayed were killed whenever Vlad could capture them, recruitment continued through the following year, and in time the Ottomans were able to find enough men to form a Janissary unit of Romanians under the command of Vlad's brother, Radu Bey.

Vlad's raids began to hurt Mehmed's forces in the southern Balkans, so in 1461 when Vlad was 30 he resolved to capture him and bring him to Constantinople. At first he invited Vlad to visit him to negotiate, but Vlad refused, saying that he didn't want King Matthias to seize his lands while he was absent. At about the same time, Mehmed learned that Vlad had actually formed an alliance with Hungary, and he realized Vlad's claim was a lie. As such, he sent a diplomatic deputation led by Hamza Pasha, the Bey of Nicopolis, to meet with Vlad in Wallachia at the fortress city of Giurgiu, ostensibly to negotiate a truce and a settlement, but really to ambush and kidnap him by any means necessary. However, Vlad was forewarned of his true mission and ambushed him instead in a narrow pass north of the city, making one of the first effective usages of gunpowder hand cannons in warfare. He killed or captured the entire force except for Hamza Pasha, who tried to flee back across the Danube while Vlad pursued him. He made it as far as Giurgiu. Vlad disguised himself as a Turk and ordered the gates opened; when they were, his army poured into the city and sacked it, capturing the fleeing Bey. Before he left, he had the survivors from the fortress impaled. Mehmed then sent a punitive expedition to raid Wallachian cities, but when the force reached the banks of the Danube they found a forest of stakes with the fortress defenders impaled upon them, and turned back in fright. Vlad understood the power of psychological warfare and planned to use it whenever he could.

During the winter of 1461/62, Vlad invaded the Ottoman-held southern Balkan states and raided from the Danube to the Black Sea. In a number of instances, he repeated his tactic of disguising himself and infiltrating walled cities or fortresses to open them to his forces. In these cases he was aided by what he knew of the Dark Arts. He killed all the Turks and boyars he could catch, as well as Muslim Bulgarians and anyone he suspected of collaborating with the Turks. The Christian Bulgarians, however, he spared and had them resettled in Wallachia in villages he ordered built for them. However, his forces were not unopposed. By this time Radu Bey had finished training his force of 4,000 Romanian Janissaries and he pursued his older brother all over the countryside. Their forces clashed numerous times, but neither could overwhelm the other. Nonetheless, Radu Bey's forces were insufficient to drive Vlad out, and he continued to devastate the land wherever he went. Mehmed sent an army of 18,000 men under the command of his grand vizier, Mahmud, to attack the Wallachian port of Brăila. That forced Vlad to retreat, but he defeated the army, capturing 8,000 of the enemy.

Vlad's campaign was celebrated by the Transylvanian cities, the Italian states, and the Pope. At the same time, the Turks living in the Balkans became frightened of him and fled, resettling in Anatolia. Mehmed decided he needed to deal with Vlad personally, so in the spring of 1462 he raised an army of 90,000 men, including Janissaries (Radu Bey's force among them), foot soldiers, cavalry, slave conscripts, archers, pikemen, and hand gunners, as well as engineers, workman, priests, astrologers, prostitutes, and cannon. When Vlad heard of this, he asked King Matthias for help, but while promised aid, none came. Instead, he called for a general mobilization of the populace, not just men, but also women and older children, and even Gypsies. He also realized that if he could not stop Mehmed from invading, he could not defend Târgovişte and the other cities, so he ordered them abandoned, and evacuated his family and forces to Poenari Castle, which he planned to use a base. He then rode out to the Danube.

When Mehmed arrived at the Danube, he was met by a new forest of impaled Turks. Though shaken, Mehmed decided to continue his campaign. Vlad made it difficult for Mehmed to cross, but eventually he established a beachhead, and Vlad withdrew. As Mehmed advanced, Vlad engaged in a scorched earth policy: burning fields, poisoning wells, diverting rivers to create marshes, and setting traps. Meanwhile, the peasants and their animals were evacuated to the mountains. Vlad also adopted guerrilla tactics, organizing hit-and-run attacks and ambushes. Thus, the Ottomans found nothing to eat or drink, and little respite. Vlad even practiced germ warfare, by sending people infected with lethal diseases, especially the bubonic plague, to infiltrate the ranks, and in fact plague did manage to spread through the Ottoman army. Mehmed ordered his fleet to attack the Wallachian port cities of Brăila and Chilia, but they were ineffective, because Vlad had destroyed the Bulgarian ports during his campaign, and so the ships had no refuge where they could rearm and resupply. Mehmed attacked the fortress cities of Bucureşti and Snagov, but was unable to capture them.

Finally, however, Mehmed approached Târgovişte. One night while he camped, Vlad attacked with a force of 10,000 cavalry. Earlier he had once again disguised himself and scouted the camp, trying to locate Mehmed's tent, and he had also learned that the Sultan had ordered his men not to leave their tents after dark to prevent panic. His aim was to kill Mehmed, and he almost succeeded, but he mistakenly attacked a tent of grand vizers, and the sultan was able to flee. Even so, he killed some 15,000 Turks. Radu Bey and his Janissaries pursued Vlad and killed a couple of thousand of his men, but he managed to make it back to Poenari Castle. Vlad only lost 5,000 men total, and had demoralized the Ottomans, but Mehmed decided to continue on to Târgovişte. When he arrived, however, he found the city deserted, and before the open gates were 20,000 impaled Turks and Muslim Bulgarians, all the prisoners Vlad had left. When he saw this, Mehmed the Conqueror, who was famous for his own use of psychological warfare, lost his nerve. He camped his force for the night and the next morning headed back in full retreat, leaving behind a smaller force in the command of Radu Bey to continue harassing Vlad for as long as possible. Despite this, Vlad pursued Mehmed, fighting a number of battles with his rearguard and cavalry. He also diverted some of his men to defend the city of Chilia from his cousin, ştefan III cel Mare of Moldavia, who tried to take advantage of Vlad's distraction. However, Mehmad eventually reached Brăila. He captured it, burned it to the ground, crossed the river, and set sail for Turkey.

Though Vlad had driven Mehmed from Wallachia, he had not yet won the war. Mehmed declared a victory when he returned to Constantinople, and there was still Radu Bey to worry about. In addition to going on the offensive against Vlad, he also courted the remaining boyars and the merchants, trying to convince them that he would make a better ruler than his brother. Having grown tired of war, many were convinced that paying tribute to the Ottomans would be better than defying them, and they joined him. As for the holdouts, Radu Bey had their families kidnapped to force them to cooperate. Nonetheless, the peasantry still supported Vlad, and he fought and won four more battles as the months progressed. However, continued warfare drained his financial reserves and he found himself unable to pay his mercenaries. By September they deserted him and joined with Radu Bey, forcing him to withdraw with what few loyal forces he had left to Poenari Castle. Radu Bey pursued and besieged the fortress, hoping to finally capture him. But Vlad was not ready to give up. With the help of Jusztina, he staged an escape with his children, while she remained behind to make it appear that he was still in residence. Once she was certain he was safely away, however, she climbed to the top of the tower and threw herself off, falling all the way to the river at the bottom of the valley. The defenders then surrendered to Radu Bey, but when he entered castle, he discovered that his prey had flown. Nonetheless, with all opposition crushed, Radu Bey declared himself voivode with the support the boyars. Mehmed in turn made him the pasha of Wallachia, which helped to solidify his rule.

Vlad was devastated by Jusztina's suicide, and he vowed to avenge her even if he had to return from the grave to do it. He left his children in the care of Cnaejna his first wife and traveled to Hungary to ask assistance of King Matthias. However, once he crossed over into Transylvania, he was arrested for high treason on orders from Matthias and imprisoned in the fortress of Oratia. Unbeknownst to him, Matthias had been receiving large subsidies from the Pope and Venice to fight the Ottomans, but had used the money for other purposes, chiefly a conflict with the Holy Roman Empire. Now with the Turks on his very threshold, he needed someone to blame. He produced a forged letter, purported to be written by Vlad, in which the voivode begged forgiveness of Mehmed, professed his loyalty to the sultan, and offered an alliance against Hungary. Also, he used stories of Vlad's atrocities against his people to paint him as an evil tyrant. Such stories had circulated for years, written mostly by Transylvanian Saxons. Vlad had paid little attention to them and even found them amusing, since they helped to reinforce the image he wanted to cultivate. However, Matthias had the stories collected, embellished, and printed, hoping to blacken Vlad's name and reputation. It didn't work. While the merchant and peasant classes devoured the stories as lurid literature, they were grateful to him for protecting them from the Ottomans. Then too, the Pope and the European leaders besieged Matthias with calls to release Vlad for much the same reason. The outcry had an effect, and in early 1463 he paroled Vlad to his summer palace in Visegrád; Vlad was now 32. Though still a captive, Vlad at least now lived as a prince instead of a prisoner in a dungeon. During this time, Matthias visited him often and they had long conversations over many games of chess.

Vlad had another companion at Visegrád, a cousin of Matthias named Ilona Szilágyi. She made it her mission to ensure his comfort and she even interceded for him with the king. Whereas he had been merely infatuated with Jusztina, Vlad fell in love with Ilona, perhaps for the first time in his life. By the end of the year, he and Matthias reconciled and the king gave him Ilona in marriage. He then paroled Vlad to a grand house in the city. Despite appearances, Matthias was motivated as much by the fact that Radu Bey was openly pro-Ottoman as anything else, a factor Vlad exploited for his own gain. Nonetheless, he was effectively under house arrest, able to move freely about the city, but forbidden to leave it without an armed escort. He was also under a curfew and couldn't leave the house after dark.

Despite this, it was a happy time for Vlad. Though at first he suspected his new wife was as much informant as lover, reporting to Matthias on his activities, she proved her loyalty when she said nothing about his sneaking out at night. Not only that, she helped him go out without being discovered and even sometimes joined him. She also arranged for him to take trips outside the city, and when Matthias became convinced of his good behavior, he was allowed to leave whenever he wanted as long as he was accompanied by her and a couple of guards (whom Ilona made sure were loyal to Vlad) and returned before nightfall. It was also a productive time, when Vlad continued his studies of the Dark Arts. In this Ilona helped him as well. She sought out and acquired grimoires, and invited alchemists, mystics, and magicians to visit. Vlad had become convinced that he could not trust force of arms to gain and hold power, at least not without near infinite wealth. Instead, he hoped the Dark Arts would give him the means by which he could become voivode of Wallachia permanently, with no fear of revolt or invasion. Ilona agreed with his goals, though not his methods, but she believed she could do more good by helping him and steering him into using his powers for the benefit of others. Meanwhile, she also increased his family, bearing him a daughter, Zaleska, in 1465 when he was 34.

As the years went by, Vlad became restless. His knowledge of the Dark Arts was increasing too slowly for his patience, and Matthias kept dragging his feet over whether to support him in retaking his throne or put him away forever. As well, Vlad received news that all was not well in Wallachia. Though Radu Bey brought peace and did not engage in the practices Vlad had, there was greater oppression from the Ottomans, higher taxes to pay for the yearly tribute, and more crime. The peasants were suffering because no one cared about their interests anymore and they bore the brunt of the crime, taxes, and oppression. The merchants were suffering because competition from foreign Muslim traders drove prices down, and their own trading activities were restricted. Even the boyars were suffering. Vlad may have tried to eradicate them, but at least he continued to work within the old system as long as the remaining nobles were loyal to him instead of themselves. Radu Bey was instituting a new, Ottoman-based system that cut the boyars out of the power structure, and he had a private army, his Janissary troops, to enforce his will independent of the boyars. Vlad may have been a despot, but he had been genuinely concerned about the welfare of his country, even if only so far as it kept him in power. Unfortunately, without money or arms, there was little he could do. Once again, he felt that knowledge of the Dark Arts would grant him the ability to help his land, but he was frustrated by his slow progress in finding the key to that ability.

In 1473 at the age of 42, he and Ilona were given a new house in Buda by Matthias. He was still under arrest, but his curfew was lifted, making it easier for him to get around. He also learned that the Ottoman Turks had replaced Radu Bey as voivode with Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân, but his younger brother was still Mehmed's governor and in command of the Wallachian Janissaries. Finally Vlad was officially pardoned by Matthias in 1474. He was now free to leave if he wished, but Matthias still would not commit himself to supporting his return to Wallachia. With nowhere else to go, Vlad stayed in Buda with Ilona, but his patience was near the breaking point.

Then, in 1475, Ilona obtained a copy of a grimoire entitled Leabhar Dubh Banríona Méabh. It was written in a language Vlad did not recognize, but a scholar Ilona found identified it as Hibernian (Irish Gaelic). She had another scholar brought from Vienna at great expense, and paid him handsomely to teach Vlad the language. Entitled Queen Maeve's Black Book, it purported to be a magical tome written by the legendary Queen Maeve of Connacht. He was skeptical at first, being as the tome lay outside the Latin/Greek/Islamic magical tradition, but once he had a command of the language he tried some of the simpler, safer spells, and found they worked. In poring through the codex, he discovered that he could use an interdimensional creature to kill specified persons. He directed it against Radu Bey, and learned a few weeks later that his brother was dead. Even then, he couldn't be sure the creature had actually killed him until Matthias revealed that spies had reported Radu had been torn to pieces in his own tent surrounded by his personal guards, none of whom heard a thing.

Then he came across a recipe for a potion that would grant eternal life and youth. Despite vague warnings written in the text, he acquired the ingredients he needed, except one: the ichor of a sleeping Draugr. It took some weeks for him to identify what sort of creature that was, but when he did he mistook it for a Vampire. According to legend there was a Vampire in the nearby ruins of an ancient Roman villa. He and Ilona journeyed to the villa, and they located the Vampire and collected a sample of its blood. Upon their return to Buda, he mixed the potion and drank, offering some to her, but she refused. Despite feeling sick for some days afterwards, he experienced no change, but he doubted the potion was a fraud. He just figured it would take time for its full effects to manifest themselves.

Finally in 1476 when he was 45, Matthias gave him the support he wanted to reconquer Wallachia. He entered the country and routed the Ottoman forces under Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân, but Mehmed invaded with a force of his own. After a number raids and minor confrontations, Vlad was traveling with an advance guard when he was ambushed by Basarab Laiotă. As he fought two soldiers at once, a third stabbed him in the back and left him for dead. Once the rest of his companions were killed, they returned to his body, cut off his head, and sent it to the Turks as a trophy. Basarab Laiotă collected the body and had it buried in the Comana monastery without ceremony while proclaiming the final demise of the hated tyrant. In Buda as elsewhere, many celebrated while a few mourned, but Ilona did neither. She simply wore a small knowing smile and went about her daily duties.

The reason was that Vlad had not died. When the three soldiers went off to help finish killing the rest of the guard, Vlad crawled away and hid himself among a pile of bodies. When they returned after the battle, they mistook another soldier for him. Later, after the enemy combatants had left, peasants came to loot the bodies. When one family found Vlad alive, they took him to their home to nurse him back to health.

What neither he nor they could know was that the parasite eggs contained in the blood he took from the Vampire had hatched in his body. The trauma of his near-death stimulated them and they began to take over his body as they turned him. It took days for the parasites to accomplish this and heal his mortal wound, but one night he awoke with the Hunger full upon him. He drank the blood of every family member except their daughter. He spared her only because, with his Hunger sated, he felt shame for killing the people who had taken care of him, and because he remembered his former life, which newly made Vampires usually did not. She reminded him of Jusztina, and though she was a witness to his crime he decided to spare her. He took her with him when he returned to Buda and gave her to Ilona to raise.

He stayed in their house while Ilona protected him during the day. He hunted when the Hunger came over him, using his knowledge of the Dark Arts to come and go unseen. Meanwhile he searched for a way to reverse his Vampirism. He soon discovered that he had made two grave errors. The first was in mistaking a Draugr for a Vampire; while similar, they were not the same. The second was in translating the Irish text as "sleeping Draugr", when really it meant "slain Draugr". He realized then that there could be no cure, at least not through magic, and he resigned himself to his fate. He thought at first to return to Wallachia and rule as voivode, but realized that once his new nature became known, Christian and Muslim alike would unite to destroy him as an abomination, and his own people would fear him no matter how much he improved their lives. Nonetheless, he felt two driving forces: the first was to avenge Jusztina by killing Mehmed and the second was to protect his bloodline. He offered to turn Ilona so that she would be immortal as well, but she refused for the sake of the children in her trust. He accepted that, and after a tender parting he left her for good.

Over the next century and a half he fulfilled his drives. In 1481 he killed Mehmed II, not by taking his blood but by posing as his physician and poisoning him. Meanwhile he watched over his descendents, particularly those who ruled as voivode. The continued fighting between the boyars angered him and made him wish he could intervene to settle the conflict once and for all for the good of the people, but he didn't dare. Instead, he worked behind the scenes, killing off any boyars who posed the greatest threat and harassing the Turks whenever they conducted raids or invaded.

However, he also felt his connection to Humanity slipping away, until only his family kept him tethered to mankind. He lost the first major strand when Ilona died of an illness in 1486, a mere ten years after they parted. He returned to her and offered again to turn her, and after she refused again he stayed with her until she died. He lost another major strand as the Ottomans steadily conquered Wallachia, Moldavia, Transylvania, and finally Hungary. It was as if his efforts were all for nothing, and he began to wonder why he even bothered. The last major strand of the tether broke when the last of his bloodline to rule as voivode, Alexandru V Coconul, died with no legitimate heir in 1627. Though he would continue to protect members of his bloodline whenever he encountered them, he no longer felt a need to become involved in Human affairs.

Shortly after this he was contacted by Uallach Ruadhríon, a member of and spokesperson for the Conclave, a council of ancient Vampires that governed the activity of all Vampires in the world. They had known of him for some time, but had waited for an opportune moment to approach him. She explained that first and foremost, the Conclave works to prevent Human society from discovering the existence of Vampires, because while Vampires are individually stronger than Humans, Humans are more numerous, and are acquiring technology that can allow them to kill Vampires with ease. That, and the daily torpor makes them vulnerable. She told him that his actions had come dangerously close to revealing their existence, but since he had not been turned by another who would have taught him these things, he would not be punished, that time. She left him with the words, "You have been warned."

He did not feel concerned, being as he had lost all desire to interact with Humans except as prey. Nonetheless, he understood her warning was a dire threat. He needed the power to be able to defend himself from other Vampires if necessary, but he knew there were only two ways to acquire it: increase in age or increase his knowledge of the Dark Arts. He couldn't do anything about the former, but as to the latter he finally decided to seek out the school of Scholomance. It took him a decade of searching, but he finally discovered it where legend said it would be, above a lake in the mountains south of Hermannstadt in Transylvania. At first he was denied entry, being a Vampire, but when he demonstrated he already had knowledge of the Dark Arts he was granted admission. He trained for nine years, at the end of which time the Devil came to claim him as payment. He contested with the Father of Lies and won, gaining the right to spend another nine years. At the end of that time the Devil once again tried to claim him, but once again he dueled with him and won the right to train another nine years. When that time was up, the Devil recognized he would be more valuable as an ally than a captive soul, and let him go without a struggle. Vlad wanted to learn more, but the Devil prevented him from finding the school again, even though he searched for a year. Finally he gave up and left the area. Despite his inability to learn more, his 27 years had given him more knowledge than any contemporary sorcerer, and in fact "there was no branch of knowledge of his time that he did not essay." His knowledge of the Dark Arts made him far stronger than a Vampire of his years should be, so that he no longer needed to fear attack by others. During this time he also learned how to suppress the Hunger and even control the torpor that rendered all Vampires helpless at dawn.

In 1666 he found himself in Bistriţa, when he heard of an ancient abandoned castle in the Tihuţa Pass (the Borgo Pass in Hungarian) in the Bârgău Mountains of the eastern Carpathians. It sat on the border between Transylvania and Moldavia and had not been occupied for at least three centuries. He journeyed there to investigate it and decided that it would make an excellent base from which to dominate the region. Reinventing himself as 'János Corvin', he arranged to buy the property, then settled into it. After a few years, 'Corvin' revealed himself to be the heir to the Comitat Drăkulyşti and became known as Conte Drăkulya, or in English Count Dracula.

Vlad continued to live in what became known as Castel Drăkulyşti (Castle Dracula) for over two centuries. During this time, the only event in the Human world that prompted him to involve himself was when the then current Grand Master of the Order of the Dragon, Prince Dmitri Cantemir, the Despot of Moldavia, died without issue in 1723. The title of Grand Master than passed to his suzerain, Peter the Great of Russia. Without a circle of knights, however, the raison d'etre of the order ceased to exist and Peter chose to place the Order in abeyance. Vlad went to Peter to inform him of his existence, and to declare that he could raise an army of knights that could take back the Balkans from the Ottomans, but Peter declined, in part because he didn't want a war with the Turks, but also because he was afraid of Vlad, and that he might make an army of Vampires. Vlad then stated that, in accordance with tradition, he would declare himself Grand Master to keep the order going until he could find worthy new members. Peter acquiesced to get rid of him.

During his undead lifetime he took numerous companions, all female, sometimes more than one at once. The first was in 1486, shortly after the death of Ilona. He found that the girl he had spared had grown into a beauty. She had learned what he was and offered to be his companion. He turned her and she stayed with him for over a century, but when her memory of her former life returned she left him. In 1527, while staying in the city of Ferrara in Italy, he met Giovanna Mencia Borgia, the daughter of Gioffre de Candia Borgia, Prince of Squillace. She agreed to become his companion, but after her first taste of his blood he was usurped by a more powerful Vampire, one Lucius Cornelius. After his time in the school of Scholomance, he searched for to reclaim her, but though he searched for two centuries, he never found her again and eventually gave up. After her, all the rest were nondescript women from all levels of society, all of whom left him at some point or another, or were destroyed. To his knowledge, none have survived into the modern age.

As the nineteenth century came to a close, he became restless. He decided to move to a new country, one with a larger, younger, more vital population. While investigating numerous possibilities, he contacted Peter Hawkins of Exeter, Great Britain, who suggested Carfax Abbey as a possible domicile. Hawkins send Jonathan Harker, a young solicitor, to Vlad to get needed signatures on deeds and other legal papers.

And the events described in Dracula by Bram Stoker were born.

The ending, however, was somewhat different. Even as Abraham Van Helsing prepared to destroy Vlad for good, he offered to become his servant and bodyguard. Van Helsing hesitated, then agreed. From then on, Vlad's life was inextricably woven into the history of the Van Helsing Bloodline and the Caerleon Order.

Vlad has served the Bloodline and the Order faithfully for over a hundred years. Abraham, his son George, and his grandson Miles had to find a way to come to terms with him, but whereas father and son trusted him implicitly due to his loyalty, discipline, and self-control, the grandson did not. For his part, though Vlad made his offer to save his life, he did so also out of respect for a man he could admire. He transferred this admiration to George, believing him to be a worthy master, but he had little respect for Miles, whom he believed was unworthy. Eventually, Miles shut him away in a stone sarcophagus in the family mausoleum. For three decades Vlad languished in a sleeping death, until released and revived by Sir Differel Van Helsing. In her he found a master as admirable as Old Abraham, if not more so. He took her under his wing to teach her how to be a crackerjack monster hunter, and while his methods could be brutal, it was largely because of him that she survived to a ripe old age. Also, unlike previous generations which had forbidden him to have any contact with their children, she encouraged him to form a friendship with her son Henry, not just for training, but also as an extra layer of control over his actions. For his part, while Vlad does not believe the son will be greater than the mother, he does look upon Henry as if he was of his own bloodline and considers him to be a worthy master.

We Hold the Line, and This Line Shall Not Be Crossed!