Recorded in a Great Ledger in an obscure dialect
IT IS SAID that we are each of us the sum of our experiences and memories. Here, I shall put down the record of the experiences and the memories which made me and brought me to the struggle to survive – that struggle which everything must face and conquer, or to which it must surrender and cease to be. Each being which can reason understands this struggle – those which cannot reason simply do by instinct. Who has the right to decide upon those who will survive, those who will breed and expand their numbers? Why does one feel he has the right to make the decision as to who will be crushed, who will be oppressed and who will be destroyed, gradually eradicated and inevitably annihilated, simply to appease his desires and vanquish his fears? Is it inevitably right that the strong will survive and the weak will be wiped from the face of the Earth? Each must adapt according to his or her needs in order to survive, to move to a different environment, a different home, when this is the only way to continue to exist, even when the system which has been a success since the start of human existence would seem logically to deny such a necessity. Where one group consumes all that is around them, spreading destruction, cruelty and Empire, though beneath a veneer of bringing freedom and civilisation, are there limits which can be imposed upon those who must fight to continue, to survive, or are those whose existence literally depends upon their struggle and their ability to fight back, freed from the moral restraints imposed by those who feel themselves dominant? I am what I was as much as that which I am and both parts, both summations of experience and my memories of both will intermingle, allow me freedom and the ability to move amongst those who oppress, those who would gladly destroy all that is different to them, those who would be dominant over all others, both those different to them and those of their own kind whom they deem different, to their own profit.
There are but two universal emotions, common to all things which walk the face of the Earth where there is an ability to feel such – hatred and fear, the one feeding the other and being fed in return, expanding and embracing all things as a dense fog swamps the moorlands, the forest and the coasts, blinding those caught up in its gloom, swamping all clarity, cutting out light, allowing those who have the ability and the knowledge to use the gloom to their benefit to rise up and wield power. This ability allows for an all pervading control through the mastering of the hatred through the power of fear. Where fear is strong enough and the fog (metaphorical, of the mind or literal) is dense enough, control and manipulation can be absolute – fear of the unavoidable consequences of not adhering to the behaviours which the instigators of the fear and hatred demand. Power and control are the things which bring order, and without order there can be only chaos; this has been understood since the earliest of times. Such power and control can be practised in innumerable fashions, they can be covert or overt, they can demonise any method of power and control which is different to their own, rendering the other an incarnation of evil and cruelty, exalting their own systems and beliefs by casting the shadow of fear and terror onto that which is simply different: the more open and overt the opposing system be, the easier such demonisation becomes, though it could easily be argued that that which is overt is that which is honest, not hiding behind hypocrisy, lies and twisted adaptations of the truth in order to achieve its ultimate goal.
These are the questions which expanding change raises. Centuries long, from the defeat of the Ottoman and the Sultan`s desire to exert such power as I wrote of above, we held sway in the farthest reaches of Europe. We of the Carpathians: the Wallachians, the Magyars, the Saxons, the Szekelys and the Dacians, we were forgotten by the great powers which lay to our West and were left well alone. We rejected the external powers, both spiritual and temporal, where we could and we remained true to our ways which have worked, which have defended us from the corruption which was brought by such changes. We who ruled were left to rule, such was our right and our duty as the defenders of the culture and the civilisation which has been ours for so long, uncorrupted and true to the ways of ancestors. As we were abandoned and left to defeat the invaders under our great leaders, the greatest of whom was the Illustrious Voivode, my ancestor my memory, my other. Great Vlad, the fighter, the warrior the true defender of freedom from the yoke of foreign oppression, yet hated for his successes, feared for his methods, demonised by those whom he defended, whose borders he kept safe from that which they most feared at the time, turning this lineage into that which they most fear now. Hate your defender, and he will no longer defend you – fear, without obedience to that fear, can signify naught but the struggle which must end in the destruction of one or the other, ofttimes both, no matter how long that struggle be. And unlike those who would stand against me, time is not something which I lack.
It was this need to move out, to expand as they were expanding, to fight back against the new invasion, this time from another direction, to expand in the face of the plague of these who wish to destroy us totally, this was the reason that I studied, researched, read and mastered everything of theirs that I was able to acquire, first learning and then trying from my books to master the English language – the tongue of the huge Empire already won and the new, expanding power over the Oceans – and ultimately I contacted the firm of Hawkins Solicitors through whom I had decided to purchase properties in England, the centre of worldly power, the place where I would best be able to fit in. Titles eventually become empty things to those who bear them, but in societies where there is still respect for the aristocratic structure, though in truth it holds little true power, they are useful in achieving that which is required – young societies have little respect for anything – they have not existed long enough to be respected anymore than they respect, but older societies understand the need for hierarchical power and they are well enough mannered to leave alone those who crave solitude and freedom from the expectations and demands of social chains, especially where that person be foreign and therefore eccentric, and most especially where that eccentric foreigner be titled. My strength will inevitably be in that I understand this and can use that understanding to my own ends over the blind folly of those who will surround me. So it was that I wrote to Hawkins and requested of him a representative who would travel to my lands and my castle with the deeds of entitlement and papers requisite for my purchasing of properties in England. In my lands, in my castle, I would be the master, I would be dominant and I would be surrounded by that which is familiar to me, which breathes the honour, the power and the influence of my lineage, where the people around me would be under my say and I would be unchallenged in my authority. For my plans to succeed and for my wishes and needs to be carried through, this will be necessary – I must be able to act with neither distraction nor hindrance and be able to control the speed and the way in which the legal necessities will be carried through. I must, moreover, be free to act once the properties are mine, and act with alacrity such that I might be settled and ready to move against my enemies before they can realise what is happening – I must be part of them and have disappeared in plain sight before there can be any move against me, otherwise all will be lost.
I am this day in receipt of papers from Hawkins Solicitors which state that they have found one property and are busy in the search for others which they feel will meet my requirements. It will, however, be necessary for there to be a delay due to the weather of a Central European winter. I am assured that all will be ready and will be brought to me either towards the end of April or the start of May. I am arranging for there to be letters and payments sent to the inns and hostelries in my lands in which the representative of Hawkins` firm will overnight, as well as booking places and paying the costs on the carriages which he will take after he reaches the end of the railway systems. I shall use the time available to me to immerse myself in my studies and my preparations for the visit of the representative, and in readying all that will need to be transported as soon as will be possible after the properties are transferred to me. Now, I must be ordered, well rested and nourished such that I may be ready.
I have returned from travels to the great cities of the East. I have wandered the streets of Istanbul, that which once was the wondrous Orthodox glory of Constantinople, vanquished and washed in the blood of those who were caught inside in 1453. The last vestige of the Empire of the Romans, brought to ruin under the silken heel of the Sultan Mehmet II, slaughter on a scale scarce imaginable carried through by the Janissaries, those taken as children, corrupted of all humanity, nothing other than an unquestioning loyalty to their Master, military training second to none and a determination to massacre any and all who stood against their Ottoman overlord. This was the atmosphere, the education and the training under which the young Prince Vlad was raised, sent by his father to the Janissary Corps as a hostage to ensure the passivity of the Wallachians and all the other Christian peoples of the Carpathians. It was here that he learned that the only way to meet the cruelty and fear which the Turkish armies engendered was not through matching them man for man on the open field of battle, that place where they were almost unbeatable, but by the Way of the Wolf: the fast attack, vicious and merciless and then fading into the forests, the mountains and the fog. Stealth, tearing and rending the hamstrings of the armies, slashing their supply routes and making an example of all those who were now wandering hopeless. It was this last that gained the Great Voivode the cognomen by which he was so well known – Tepes, the Impaler. When the armies and the emissaries of the Sultan saw done unto their kind that which they did unto others, their terror was palpable, it could be scented on the air, blown on the wind, the flavour of spilt life force which flowed down the stakes and soaked into the grounds, feeding the plants, the living creatures which crawled there, lapped up by the wolves and foxes, transferring the lividity of the impaled and giving it to others. Was it here that the realisation of the power that could be gained in the consumption of this life force, that the imbibing of blood, was recognised, that it brought with it concomitant rewards in the gift of immortality, though at a cost some would class too high? Was it here that we chose to abandon all that had abandoned us, or so we felt? Was it here we rejected the morality of the civilisations which preached love and peace, forgiveness and unity of all mankind whilst massacring all who disagreed, all who believe otherwise, all who questioned their ultimate authority, were that at the point of a Janissary spear or amid the flames of the bonfires of the `heretics` and the instruments designed solely to inflict such pain and agony before the cold release of an unmarked grave? That society which called the people of Sion chosen of God, or of the Book, and yet used them as a scapegoat to rob, crush, destroy whenever they had need of a victim? Was this truly where we chose our other path? Was it an action of the moment, untested and a reaction to that which we saw all around us, or was it a gradual process, reasoned and deliberately chosen as a defence, our only way of survival? It was so long ago that the memories which might answer these questions are faded to the realms of legend and myth, repeated by the common people, exaggerated, and changed from generation to generation, metamorphosed from that which might have been an original truth to that which can scarce be recognised. Such tales are useful; them we allow as they are another layer under which we can conceal our reality, which continues to fan the flames of the fear, which gives power and control. The records contradict each other, the Magyars under Corvinus were determined that they would be seen as the great saviours of the Catholic civilisation, the defenders against the Ottoman threat, ignoring the true defender, crushing the stories of what was truly done and turning the Great Voivode into the monster which the modern world conjures him to be. Was it their determination to demonise Prince Vlad, to ensure that he was only to be associated with impaling and extreme cruelty rather than the truth of why it was done, that in reality ensured that we, we who know the truth, rejected them and all they stood for? Dracula, Son of the Dragon, scion of the great chivalric order was to be rendered a monster of mythical proportion? Then perhaps that was where the choice was made? I cannot bring myself to wonder any more on such questions, questions which are now perhaps irrelevant. The world has changed; the Ottoman is a failing Empire, though supported by its former enemies of Britain and France when she fought the Great Bear, the Czar and his forces in Crimea. He will not last much longer, of that I am convinced, and I have seen the rise and the fall of earthly powers. The uniting force of the Catholics has been shattered since the German Monk spoke out and a monstrous king decided his lust was more important than his dedication to his faith. All these twists and turns, the slaughter of Catholics by Protestants, and of Protestants by Catholics, Sunni by Shia and Shia by Sunni, where these men have used a simple faith of love as an instrument in their corruption, greed and hatred, I have witnessed from my own place of power. They call us barbaric, evil and superstitious fools, especially as they have turned from faith to the new secular power of their science – that which they see as the unquestioned authority which will bring them into a great period of freedom, peace and honest civilisation. On how many occasions have I heard this through my time? How many faiths, philosophies and ways of thinking have I seen make promises which they cannot keep, and which those who control them know from the earliest times that they cannot fulfil? All that is evident is that the weapons of slaughter grow ever more efficient in achieving their ends, and that the goals of conquering, ruling and destroying are no longer on a level where one country fights its neighbour, but now on a global level. The curse of humanity is unleashed on the world on a level that could never have been imagined at the time of the Great Voivode`s rule, deaths on a scale which to Vlad Tepes would have been unimaginable. Who, then is the greater monster? It is against this that I have struggled and fought for longer than I can even begin to remember, and a struggle which I can no longer keep beyond my borders. I shall again take this fight to the lair of my enemy, I shall again release the Way of the Wolf, and I shall again consume the life force of my enemies. I SHALL NOT GIVE WAY NOW ANY MORE THAN WE DID THEN. This I swear by all that my Ancestors held dear.
The night before last, the representative of Hawkins’ Solicitors arrived at Klausenburgh, staying at the Hotel Royale. His name is Harker, Jonathan Harker, and I believe that he bears the papers I need for the transference of ownership of the properties in London to me. He must next be heading towards Bistritz, the town to which the firm have sent their correspondence with me – a town which lies under my purview. I know that he stayed in the hotel all night, I watched him from a distance as he attempted to sleep in order that I might recognise him when required. The annoying continual howling of a terrified cur was all that disturbed the night, a terror stemming from the animal’s ability to sense the presence of those things which lie beyond the pathetic innate abilities of man. There are dangers in our lands, dangers which the the young foreigner will not recognise, nor will he understand. I require his presence in order that I achieve my ends, and for this I shall protect him, accompanying him without his realisation.
At the rise of the night on the following day, Harker arrived in Bistritz, from where he would subsequently take the carriage through the Borgo Pass, the place where he would part ways with their world and enter mine. I had already arranged and paid for the place on the carriage as well as his accommodation in the Gasthof Zur Goldenen Krone. It is a quaint hostelry and one typical of the Saxons who dwell in my lands. I had instructed the landlord and his wife by letter to ensure that Harker was made welcome and would receive the best of all that they had to offer. I had further sent an accompanying missive addressed to Harker himself, and which was to be delivered into his hands immediately upon his arrival. A simple letter, giving him instructions on which diligence he was booked to travel on the following day and welcoming him to my beautiful land, assuring him of my joy at his arrival and the impending meeting between us. I have done everything to ensure that Harker will be relaxed and perhaps even happy to arrive at my castle, without fear, without discomfiture at the thought of encountering an arrogant and aloof aristocrat who disdains his presence. He must come of his own volition; he must be in a position that he feels he is visiting a friend in whose home he will be made welcome and may comfortably be himself. There can be no feeling on his part of compunction; freely must he choose the path before him, and that requires that he have no suspicion of the truth of the reason that he is here among us and the ultimate goal of my purchase of properties in Harker’s homeland. For this reason, I have instructed the landlord of the Gasthof that neither he nor his wife must answer any questions the Englishman might have – something which, as I point out in my letter, is easy by exaggerating the problems of language. They are my people and they know, I trust, the consequences of disobeying my instructions as their rightful overlord.
I chose the date well. This day on which Harker travelled was St George’s Eve. He was to reach the Pass after the fall of the sun and the darkness of enchanting night would frighten those who could not see. The superstitions of those peasants who were accompanying Harker in the diligence would have been so deep and overwhelming for his Protestant upbringing that he must surely have treated it as the hysteria of primitive folk, steeped in their simplistic and unscientific faith. He will continue to reject their warnings as folly – he will, or course, have rejected them politely as is the want of the educated Englishman, but nevertheless they were rejected. Such will aid me in my dealings with him, of course. As the well read and equally educated aristocrat, I will be able to build a bridge of trust between him and me, and encourage his scorn and rejection of the peasant stock who live in the area of my castle (though few they be) until it is too late for him to affect my plans in any meaningful way. I can do naught but laugh at the irony – their progress and rejection all that they class as superstition and folly is that which ensures my safety and the achievement of my plans – the ultimate fulfilment of my will.
My carriage, drawn by thoroughbred horses, as black as the night, left in good time for the meeting with the diligence on which Harker was travelling, yet, when it arrived at the place I had arranged, the diligence was already there. The horses which pulled their carriage were sweating profusely, foaming at the mouth, the whites of their eyes and their heaving chests showing how hard they had been pushed. From the windows, the anxious, nay frightened visages of my guest’s fellow passengers in the light of the full moon, then fading into darkness as the clouds scudded over the skies. The wind gathered the distant thunder clouds, and the air was heavy and oppressive as the power of the storm encroached from the distant mountain tops. My coach approached, silently, my horses trained to be quiet when stealth was required, the lamps extinguished. The diligence had stopped, its driver silhouetted against the lamps which burned and flickered yellow against the night, like two eyes which glowed ineffectively to strain and see, though impossible so to do. The driver glanced at his pocket watch, and spoke to the passengers in his dialect – quiet so that the sound might not travel, but the hearing of those whom they fear is a keen as that of the Wolf. “There is yet an hour before the due time.” The passengers taught expressions slackened and a look of relief of sorts overcame them all. Harker had climbed down from the diligence and was looking to the driver, seemingly confounded at the lack of anyone to meet him. The driver spoke to him in the most appalling German, trying to convince him to climb back into the carriage and continue to Bukovina, only returning either the following day or the day after. The look on Harker’s face let see that he was contemplating agreeing to the wishes of the driver. This was not permissible. My carriage advanced into the place where they had stopped, startling their horses such that they began to panic. The driver had to give up on his beseeching Harker to abandon his duty and hold his team that did not run off. The foolish peasants began to cross themselves and clutch at amulets around their necks, screams and imprecations emitting from their panicking mouths. What folly! My caleche overtook their diligence and drew up next to them.
“My, you are early tonight, friend!” The driver of the diligence went pale, an expression of abject fear across his face. He stammered some ridiculous excuse, attempting to blame Harker’s impatience for the early arrival – the poor Englishmen simply sat there confounded by the exchange in a language of which he understood not a word, unable to defend himself against the accusation. “Speak that the English Herr will understand!”
The driver repeated his statement in his atrocious, yet intelligible German. He knew better than to deny the command. When it was made clear to him that not only had his early arrival been preempted by the even earlier arrival of my caleche, but that his attempts to convince Harker to abandon his duties to Hawkins’ Solicitors and to his client, and to continue to Bukovina had been heard. “…You cannot deceive me, my friend. I know too much, and my horses are swift.” He would never have outridden nor outrun my thoroughbreds. He had no answer to give. The silence was only broken as one of the passengers muttered quietly “Denn die Todten reiten schnell!” For the dead ride quickly – so, despite the fact that I had donned a highly concealing disguise, they knew me, recognised me for who I am. I could not help but smile as they looked on, though the fact they all immediately looked away told that they had also recognised the warning from my eyes, the warning of inescapable revenge were they to break my anonymity and revel my identity to Harker.
After a moment’s silence, during which every one of them turned to the side or lowered his or her eyes in submission, I demanded that the traveller’s luggage be brought from the diligence and positioned on my caleche, which they did with an amazing speed. Harker descended from the diligence last. I pulled him up by the arm to the seat and then, taking my place, I whipped the horse with the reins, leaving behind the diligence to set off with all haste in the direction of Bukovina. Harker was now in my lands and the outside world could have no bearing on his hopes and deeds until I released him and let him return at my whim, if such is to be my whim. On this I am not yet decided. The cold of the night must have been biting for him, so I stopped the horses and wrapped a great cloak around my passenger and a travelling rug around his knees, pointing out to Harker that a flask of plum brandy was in his easy reach should he so desire. It was completely dark other than the least of moonlight, and the next requirement to control Harker was simple – I went back and forth over the same few stretches of road – something which I knew he would realise, but that was of no importance, simply that he were totally disorientated, something which the concealed moon, the dark and his fatigue and confusion served to facilitate.
As midnight arrived, a chorus of howling dogs rang out through the valley, the sounds reverberating around us, a symphony of terror accompanying our presence in the valley, causing a panic in the horses which I was required to quell with soothing words and sounds. Then, the frightened howls of the domesticated gave way to the the purer, louder and much clearer chorus from the surrounding mountain slopes, the wolves greeting us as we left the domestication of the small farmers and made ready to head to the wild freedom beyond the roadway of the Pass. I held the now panicking under control by the power of words of comfort and the sheer power of will, taking up the reins and making at full pace for our destination through the enclosed passageway of interlocking trees overhead, like a soaring roof of a natural rather cathedral rather than one constructed by human hand. The storm was fast approaching, the rising winds gusting and bringing snows sweeping down from the heights of the mountain tops, the blizzard leaving a pure covering, concealing the dangers at the sides of the roads, the roadway, though, still like a black knife slicing through the ever deepening drifts. The dogs faded behind, the symphony of the wolves grew ever stronger, unleashing the most primordial of feelings among all that heard them. The night of St. George’s Eve – the night where the primordial holds sway over all else. The blue lights which flared up, showing where there are treasures and curses concealed in the ground. At each we stopped and what was done was of necessity, my passenger, whether through fatigue, cold, fear or a combination of all three, drifted in and out of sleep, an uneasy and disturbed sleep, shown in his occasional shouting out. Sometimes he was stirring as I returned from a flame, other times he was sleeping fitfully, his dreaming twisting with what he perceived as reality. As we advanced through the Pass, the flickering blue flames were at times near the roadside, but more often at a distance. At one, I went into the woods quite a distance to deal with the fire. The wolves had made a break in their song and had come down to the edge of the circle of view around the caleche. The horses were still enough under my sway, even at a distance, that, though fearful and verging on panic, they remained still. I sensed that my passenger had woken from his slumbers, however, and his panic, his terror were so great that they were as if tangible on the air. A break in the clouds bathed the wolves, MY wolves, in the pure silver of the moonlight, and as one, they took up their song of welcome again, though this caused a panic among the horses which I was hard pushed to quell. Harker began calling for me to return, slamming his hand on the side of the carriage in an attempt to startle the wolves – a foolhardy and pointless gesture, but one well meant with my safety at its heart. I was almost brought to laughter at the futility of it, but instead swept down to the clearing.
“My children, I thank you, but begone!” I commanded, the words in a language of so long ago, none who heard it would have understood, though words which still held meaning to the children of the night. I raise my arms and the clouds swept over the moon, cutting out the silvern glow and plunging all into the most profound darkness, allowing the horses to calm as I climbed back into the seat and urged them on at full pelt. We swept along the road, climbing ever higher until, out of the gloom, the dark solidity of my castle rose up. We had arrived.