It’s necessary to make clarifications on this story, inspired by true events.
All that follows is about a recent examination of papers that have not been extensively studied yet, from an archive of direct sources, only recently discovered, on the historical figure of the famous Vlad III Draculesti, Voivode of Wallachia: the notorious Vlad Ţepeş, a character which was known to inspire the literary Dracula, or Nosferatu the Vampire.
These examinations have revealed, among many other materials, a letter of extreme interest. While not dated, it is likely from 1459, and it is now a subject of a rather complex study by scholars and researchers.
I had the privilege of being able to learn the first and immediate results of the inspection, and obtain a translation of the same through the intercession of a dear friend of mine who knew of my interest in such horrid issues.
My friend, a university researcher in the group of studies who first discovered the historical record, participates in a collaboration between two universities (one UK and one US) and a “Institute of Historical Studies and Research” in Bratislava, asked me not to be mentioned here.
An intense correspondence arose between us on the discovery and the content of the letter, and if I were called upon to speak my mind on the details he gave me, I would say that, in addition to the story itself, hereafter told (it is considerably creepy), it intrigues and surprises as, from the data under consideration, a brand new version of the character of Vlad transpires.
The infamous warrior and tyrant, known for his legendary and immeasurable cruelty, and chosen to became the most famous Vampire of literature, would seem to have been keen to address issues of a general nature in an almost “philosophical” and “speculative” manner, certainly with some degree of abstraction! He appears to have been interested in searching for some sort of “systematic principles” and motivations of human behavior, as well as plagued by existential anxieties.
Of course he pondered all these issues in a completely eccentric and absolutely deflected way.
The object of study by the research group is the letter itself. In fact, it was never sent by his editor, and from a first reconstruction, it was intercepted probably from the manor house where Vlad lived in that time, and from where he directed the his campaigns for the containment of the Ottoman Empire.
The letter was written by an emissary of a small neighboring kingdom, intended for his wife. We do not know, despite ongoing meticulous research on the subject, if the correspondence had been longer, but for now it seems appropriate to exclude this hypothesis.
Written with shaky handwriting at times, it was very short and succinct, on the night prior to departure from that place that he calls: “cursed and inhabited by unparalleled horrors”.
The letter is, after all, in good condition, in its most legible, and the prose rather smooth and elegant, is suggesting an extensor of great preparation and intelligence, well educated, cultured, of excellent qualities, especially if we consider the young age and the horrific predicament in which he found himself and the circumstances in which it was written.
To such circumstances, and to the terror that ensued, should probably be attributed the occasional abrupt interruption of the theme, the jumps or unnecessary repetitions of some concepts which will be omitted in the following narration of the history.
The script is virtually free of erasures and corrections; it was probably penned within a few hours, on a single square sheet, fairly large in size, then folded and closed with string and sealing wax, but the seal was broken.
The experts are studying to interpret all the data contained in it, and, wherever possible, all the references and compose all the events.
In the meantime, I took the liberty to formulate a fantastical proposal, to be verified in serious and appropriate historical studies.
I will avoid technicalities of some passages, probably the most important and interesting from an historical standpoint, relating to the identity, the names, and the origin of the characters involved in the story, because they are not entirely clear at the moment.
Also it should be fully clarified the whole painful episode of the gentleman, on which and on whose personal story, my friend, with others, began a research that has already proved to be fruitful, but also weird and sadly interesting. In particular, the final part of the story need to be rigorously verified, but it will be almost impossible, I am afraid.
Therefore, I will propose just a possible reconstruction, relevant to the factual information in my possession at the moment, of the events that probably occurred to the unfortunate author of the letter. I will also supplement my reconstruction with additions coming only from my own imagination.
I want to reiterate that, despite the interest of my friend for the reconstruction of the history as I practiced it, the following script has no historical value at all and it has no link with the academic environment and the related studies that are being carried out.
The phrases placed in quotation marks and italics are, however, drawn directly from the writing in question.
A possible reconstruction of the events
During risky and intense activity on the battlefields, when life and fate were extremely uncertain, various Kingdoms, States or neighboring fiefs near to the territories ruled and tyrannized by Prince Vlad, some of them important and quite extensive, others smaller and less relevant, were accustomed to send their ambassadors and envoys to confer with him to inquire about his political and military intentions.
This was done with the purpose to conclude agreements or alliances, make requests or provide support, care and all that is related to diplomacy and vicinal relations in a zone plagued by eternal war and an unsure future.
The extreme cruelty and lack of humanity of this tyrant-soldier were well known by everyone, and often they became evident from several texts. However many of the diplomats, as well as (hopefully for the salvation of their own souls) those of who sent them there, they probably ignored their exact proportions, contours and extension.
In our story, in the diplomatic activities of that time, several delegations coincided in the castle simultaneously. We do not know if it occurred intentionally, as we ignore which ones and how many exactly.
The famous Christian leader sent word to the ambassadors that they would be hosted for three days and two nights, so having the time to explain to them what to report back to their respective places of origin about how he intended to continue his fight to the Turks and what needed he for such purpose.
The author of our letter, scion of a good family, well educated and eager to begin a brilliant military career, having heard many stories about the character that he visited (the text clearly shows) had accepted, we can infer, the prestigious post of ambassador, completely ignoring both the mental state and the exact personality of the leader, in the course of the scenes he would have witnessed upon his arrival.
You can imagine with some degree of approximation, that such an assignment, shunned by all, had been entrusted to him by virtue of his young age, as well as the little power it afforded his family. He accepted it, probably somewhat duped, only in consideration of the merits and luster that it would give him bring to his future career.
The young man tells about his astonishment when, while approaching the castle, he had to learn that all the people who served him, both locals or foreigners, abandoned him in a village near the destination. As it seems it was now the common practice, he was collected by a servant of the castle, and he arrived there completely alone.
Getting closer, he tells about the heartfelt discomfort and dismay with which he noticed that the air was becoming more and more thick and stifling. Then, horrified, and getting closer to the destination, he had to contemplate, among the mists and the haze of the place: “hundreds and hundreds of stakes which pierced humans and sporadically even animals”.
It is famous, the obsessive habit of Vlad of impalement, and about that, probably, even our young protagonist was not entirely ignorant. Yet he said, speaking of the specific circumstances in which it came to be, as something that: “in scope and quantity was totally unexpected and far exceeded all imagination of the worst horrors that my mind could ever conceive”.
Once in the castle, both the stench of excrement and rotting corpses, and the painful cries of people still in agony: “shook the legs and drew a grimace of nausea and malaise on all present who were visitors to this place”.
The various ambassadors were received together with understated formality and welcomed by the lord himself. The manners and phrasing made between diplomats and the local nobility were wrapped in a series of courteous rituals which took on the contours of the absurd and the grotesque, in the specific circumstances.
Absolutely no one present felt at ease, and all were greatly troubled by the scenario that was revealed and: “the horror seemed to be amplified by this strange ceremonial reception”.
All of them had been advised of the “extreme touchiness” of the character of the one who they came to visit. They were brought, immersed in fear by the ghastly spectacle in which they were, perhaps frightened, instinctively, by possible retaliation, and certainly: “intimidated by the expanse of bodies of the dead and the dying”, and finally also impressed by the: “diligence of the distressed and terrified servants” in everything they did. No one dared to say a word or hint at the slightest sign of disgust or discomfort.
The Lord of the place invited all to dine with him that evening, and everyone agreed: “with embarrassing displays of false gratitude”. Only one of them, who justified himself on the grounds that he was too fatigued due to the great distance traveled from his place of origin, the health somewhat unsteady, and a variety of reasons, more or less fragile, but rouged by an elegant oratory and an impeccable courtesy, declined the invitation, and he was allowed to retire.
The noble host, with pragmatic and military manners, did not insist, so all the others: “seemed to envy the shrewd fellow who had had the presence of mind to manifest and get what each of them would had wanted for themselves as well”.
At dinner the tyrant thanked the guests for their presence and the gift of their company that: “at least as pleasing, as unusual in such a number”. Probably in the circumstance there were five people, including the “justified” absentee.
With a fine rhetoric, but without ornamentations, he claimed to be: “a lonely man, excellent just in military skills”. Unfortunately, he admitted, sometimes too inappropriate for a developed social life, a fact of which he was the first to complain about.
Thus speaking, considering the tone, the friendliness, the martial elegance, to all he seemed to be: “a wonderfully polite warrior, a great conqueror, firm and loyal, mind entirely consistent and orderly”.
He went on explaining topics that were of great importance to all those present, with regard to the military situation of the border land, and its outcome, together with a vast series of complex strategic and geopolitical issues, in a beautifully rehearsed but perfect and dry summary.
While illustrating everything with so much skill and precision he appeared as: “a person of talent and seemingly endless wit, aware of every implication and also vaguely tired of his hard role constantly linked to the conflict in the border lands”.
He said he had forgotten that there could be a life devoid of battles, blood and death, but if that was the role that Divine Providence had given to him in life, he would have done everything possible and the best and up to the extreme sacrifice, in fulfillment of the plans of the Lord.
While he was speaking, so impeccably, from time to time, however, loud lamentations and gruesome cries rose and reached the hall, entering by the narrow and thick gray stone of the windows, reminding everyone they were surrounded by such horrific atrocities.
The noble military lord, sometimes seeming to be aware, but not disturbed at all by the uncomfortable situation for those who were not accustomed to stay at the castle, continued, stating the need to exert so much blatant and crude firmness, him being the only real bulwark against fanatical enemies, who greatly outnumbered their forces, and them all too willing to do anything to gain victory and submission. “You cannot expect any kind of mercy from the infidels!” he stated.
The provision of a strategic military sense, I mean “rationale”, even in its extreme crudeness, of what he had done (horrifying each of foreigners approaching the castle) brought a sigh of relief, or at least, the young man said he felt: “somewhat relieved”.
Before dinner commenced, and after a sharp piercing scream of fright from the outside, which froze the blood of all present, the lord said he was sorry for the absence of one of them: “that awaits in another place”, and expressed his disappointment by saying, covertly upset, he did not like wasting time and being forced to repeat the same tedious stories several times.
During dinner, the servants were impressively quite and speedy, and it seemed that when the host looked to any one of them, each did anything possible in order to leave the stage and be out of sight; but there were no incidents whatsoever.
The evening went off without a hitch, and for the following day, Vlad ordered an early ride over the lands surrounding the castle in order to discuss politics and diplomacy: “without taking these issues lightly and without straying too far from the cruel everyday reality in which he was constantly immersed, forcing him to make such painful decisions”.
Shortly after dawn breakfast was served outside in the courtyard of the castle, before heading out for that: “ride that no one would prefer to avoid”.
The ambassador of the previous day was absent again, but, for fear of being inappropriate, and also for being: “induced to silence by the atmosphere in which they were immersed in gloomy thoughts”, no one asked him, nor did the host mention the topic.
That morning, however, between the servants snaked some perceptible terror. One waiter, probably of Turkish origin who was taken into captivity, was so terrified that, perhaps for the cold weather, he could not avoid shaking and you could see that as he held the silver tray in hand, he had to make a huge effort not to spill any of the containers that were placed there.
“Such was the tremor that the metal and the glass on the tray rattled constantly without rest, echoing loudly in the artificial and awkward stillness in which they were immersed.”
During a long pause of silence the noises became very evident. The master turned to the servant and, speaking to him directly, asked if something specific was troubling him. For the fear, the anxiety of having to conceive an answer, he started painfully and incomprehensibly babbling.
The master, pressing him to answer, increased his terror and the consequent inability to stay quiet. The scene was horrible, embarrassing, the poor man awoke an infinite sympathy in everyone: he was unable to articulate a single sentence that made sense, but in an effort he poured a couple of glasses.
The despot became very angry shouted and ordered him away, showering him with insults. Then he asked the guests to excuse the victim for his intolerable clumsiness, adding that from the incident would be born, however, the opportunity to explain to them, with greater clarity, its role and the meaning of his presence in the world.
So they ventured outside the walls, where began a seemingly endless expanse of the impaled. At the opening of the gates: “everyone was quite disturbed by the temperament of the tyrant, by the sharp turn of his countenance, and the potential consequences of his words, but no doubt all the attention went to the unfortunate victims of the horrific execution by impalement”.
Some of the poles pierced now decomposed carcasses, reduced almost to reeking skeletons, affected by weather and birds of prey, other corpses were more recent, sometimes naked, swollen, dark, and some of them bearing still living victims, considering that they heard: “although feeble, and quite often without being able to establish the exact origin of moans, and sinister human or bestial groans of all sorts”.
In any case, there was such a profusion of bodies that occasionally: a thick and dark blood dripped on fine and elegant clothes of delegation’s members, perhaps carried by the wind or by the beaks of the crows, like rain from a doomed heaven”.
There were extremely tall stakes, but in others the bodies were almost at eye level with the heads of the slain or little higher than that of the passers-by.
In most cases the post emerging from a scapula, and the head hanging bloody in a contorted grin of anguish and pain from one side, but with a closer look you could see: “dozens and dozens of variations of the technique of impalement, which were not random, and certainly had horrific consequences on the painfulness of the treatment and the duration of agony”.
The ambassadors, except the young one: “terrified though curious” tried to avoid looking at such macabre details. They had taken on a strange grimace, eyes and face contracted, in an attempt to reduce their perception in the throes of horror, while the leader seemed calm and at ease in that nightmare environment.
All, however, preferred to lay eyes on him: “with a clumsy smile and a vile and hypocritical grin”, rather than on the surrounding landscape. He walked in a soldierly fashion, escorted by four huge guards armed in a flashy and rich way.
He was proceeding as if searching for a specific point of the horrific clearing. They reached a small group of people, and: “in the thinning mist, they recognized among other soldiers tonnage particularly robust like the others, and with expressionless and ruthless faces, the hapless servant stutterer”.
“To everyone it was immediately clear that we attended a performance, a show that everyone would have wanted to avoid, and which filled all with heartfelt anguish.”
On the other hand, except for the young one, the other three envoys were professional diplomats: “age more or less advanced, devoted to works of concept and in their entire life not-at-arms”.
Vlad asserted that to understand the world is nothing more than direct experience. Seeing a person die by impalement was therefore the experience that everyone who wants to talk about war and military matters, life and death, must live directly, unless you want to babble nonsense and give breath to the empty wind.
Until then, no one lifted a finger, protested, or even said a word about what was going to happen. Everyone was simply horrified and unpleasantly surprised by the turn of the circumstances, and seemed speechless and unable to decide what attitude to take.
When the command was given to proceed, the servant, who until then had been kneeling and sobbing scared and resigned, jolted suddenly. His executioner, probably the chief of the executions, a tall and extremely strong and massive man with the severe face of a golem: “he said, with a grin mockingly cruel to those present, surrounded by sneers of fellow soldiers, that always it happens the same, and that human beings are all equal”.
The poor man was screaming now in panic, crying miserably, asking not to be killed, and struggling vigorously, causing just with his attitude despair to those onlookers who were already troubled beyond measure.
The soldiers, indeed, had no difficulty in holding him, but sometimes: “it seemed that they did loosen their hold on him a little bit only to give him false hopes of escape”, and play on his death.
In a time that seemed to be extraordinarily short to the spectators, the brawny policemen were then inexorably able to firmly insert the pole into the victim’s body and erect him vertically, despite the enormous efforts of this search for a way out.
The trunk was greasy and slid smoothly into the victim who clutched his fists in a chilling grimace of pain: “flexing every muscle in spasms far beyond normality as if by doing so he could expel the pole or prevent slipping further into his body”.
The soldiers, however, seemed careful to address it in a way that would follow a predetermined path that does not pierce vital organs, which would have shortened the excruciating agony that awaited him. The pole’s exit was in most cases at right of the neck, away from the heart, but not this time.
Vlad seemed satisfied with the work of his men. Everyone else, except the guards and the young man, who, thinking it was the best solution, hid the horror by: “drawing on all the strength my own imperturbable demeanor of the long military education received”, seemed evidently overwhelmed by the more intense horror: “some were biting their hand nervously, some were clenching their fists, and standing rigidly, some wringing their hands and touching their frantic sweaty and embarrassed faces, without respite”.
The victim’s screams of terror were atrocious while sliding on the stake. The shocked crowd of spectators followed the despot who silently, with the guards, walked away from the place to a point where the yelling was still audible, but not dominant.
He gave him what he deserved! It was the affirmation of the Lord: “a man incapable of being useful even as a domestic, who could never justify the waste of resources that is realized for his existence in this world?”
Then, heading merrily toward the impaled, he started insulting him for being an infidel, and taunted him by telling him that the post, that would soon come out of his mouth, served to make him incapable of using it again, as he was doing now, with all those pathetic screams like a pig, and after he had not been able to use it when he had been asked.
This statement was said with such a contempt for human life and with such a provocative cynicism, that the other ambassadors, who were already noticeably upset, seemed about to say something, but again no one moved.
Our young ambassador was able, instead, though with extreme difficulty, to maintain an apparent calm, and certainly he would not have, even in consideration of the age of the others, dared to say a word to him first.
Vlad added a description of the fate of the victim, saying that: “useless infidel pig probably would remain alive for another couple of days, passed between pain and untold suffering, and perhaps even have some time to contemplate a different way that he might have conducted his lurid life. Often the ravens blind the helpless executed”.
To anyone who finds himself dying in this manner, they could never consider that life lived until then it is worth it. The last piece of it shall become, without doubt, the most important part, the only really relevant one, erasing everything else, every passed joy, love and pleasure, making it clear that it would have been better for him to have never been born.
No one ever thinks while he lives that his own life could end up in that way, but this becomes a reality for a multitude of people, and when this happens, and they realize they have no way out, everyone reacts the same way (as the guard said). Just as no one knows exactly how much the fire burns, but once tasted, he screams.
At that point, one of those present, a mild and effeminate chubby middle-aged man, seemed to have the urge to vomit, and the Lord of the place gave him a withering look: “rather of hatred, contempt, or both in equal measure” while the man was bent resting a hand on a tall empty pole and gasping in the throes of nausea and horror.
Vlad began to explain what he thought was his mission in life. He started with a strange comparison: “I am nothing else but a small piece of a huge maze wanted and created by God himself.
A maze in which, once the victim enters, he will find no pity. The mission given to me by the Lord is to spread all the pain and suffering that I can on my neighbor, and I will respond to this vocation without ceasing.
The place that I represent in the immense divine city is the worst, my mission and purpose is the triumph of the will of God, and for this I need people who have no compassion as I can have not either.
This task had to be managed by someone in order to free the consciences of other human beings from it, and it is on me that God’s hand entrusts.
Through me he acts on the world, doing what has already been established in the eternity of his mind and written into the mists of time, and that I cannot change. I only need people like me to bring about the inexorable will of his omniscient mind.
For this reason, I will not stand cowardice anywhere it is! I’ll see it, and for this reason, whoever is guilty of this weakness can never be safe from me, nor will ever serve me, or help me in any way, or expect mercy”.
He added that anyone could blame his war and his mission, as much as they wanted, but at the same time all of them were taking advantage of it. “You all prayed the Lord to get rid of the Ottoman Empire, and I’m the answer to all your insistent pleas. I will not spare one single life! Don’t blame what you prayed for!”
Hard were the accusations! They, Vlad said, were making every effort to flatter him, offering support and aid that were not useful, while in their hearts they harbored deceit and hypocrisy and despised him when they were in their homes.
But pain is like any other tool, and he, more than any other person on earth, knew how to use it with wisdom and confidence. After his macabre and delusional speech, Vlad gestured to his men, pointing to the emissary who had had fainted before he began to speak.
They grabbed him while he was in disbelief that now he would have to follow the same fate of all those who surrounded him. He frantically started to remind his host not only his duties as such, but also the rules that forbade anyone from attacking him, him being a diplomat, and with more than noble ancestors himself, and even more so being a representative of another kingdom allied with his.
The words came out stammering for the fear of the reality of the execution, but perhaps until that time, he did not believe that this could really happen. It made no sense!
The soldiers, however, kept him still while his heart was pounding faster and faster, and Vlad listened to him as if he was reflecting on his words, and they could have had an effect of some sort.
Then, without changing one iota the norms already established, the voivode ordered them to proceed with the execution, stating that all the rules mentioned by the convicted person did not exist there where he was.
In the borderlands so tormented by a perpetual war, the concept of peace and mercy was lost long ago, as well as every limit and every right and friendship to those who profited from his work, while comfortably remained inert and blessed far from there in their mansions.
When the soldiers began to maneuver with ropes and rods as they had done previously: “the victim began to babble pathetic supplications and crying desperately and so immodest, and with great force tugging and squirming restlessly. Then he began to scream in real panic”.
The same soldier that had spoken before reiterated that at some point: “they all behave the same way!” While Vlad also seemed amused and accomplice of the measure.
The condemned screamed and begged to be killed in any other way at least, but the tyrant did not listened to him, and indeed he said caustically to just stop being so tedious, and “die like a man, if such an end can be called so”, as he was already on the pole that was going to impale him to death.
One of the two diplomats who were together with the boy took courage and asked to be heard. He interceded, speaking eloquently on behalf of his colleague in anguish, while the second also, but more timidly, started begging for his life, or at least to give him a most honorable or less agonizing end, also in consideration of his titles, if he felt so offended by his behavior to deserve death.
“The speech of the first man was extremely well constructed, respectful, motivated, and could in no way be taken as an insult or disrespect, but only as a good application of universal concepts and Christian charity.”
While everyone listened to what he had to say, the execution was stopped, the insecure ropes held the victim still on the cusp of the log, uninjured. At the end of the indictment and timely summary of the diplomat, Vlad spoke only to ask the soldiers why they had slowed down operations, which in fact were completed in a few more seconds.
The assistance from the ambassador did not serve more than to cruelly provide false hopes and prolong the agony of the one he wanted to help. Soon after, as the tyrant concisely argued: “to emphasize that the concepts illustrated by his host had no relevance where they were, and that he proceeded according to his whim, who was also at the whim and will of God”, he ordered that the second gentleman, the one who had spoken so timidly, and only in slavish support of the wonderful ideas of the first, should then be impaled as well.
And so, for the third time within a very short period, the same horrific scene repeated, and the young man as he had done before, did not say a word or move a muscle, nor gave a sign of discomfort, but he chose, henceforth also strategically: “to act as the most veteran, and tough of the soldiers”.
Later, the small group of people formed by the two surviving strangers, the Lord of the place and his guards, followed by other military strongmen equipped with various poles and cables, transported: “as if they were objects of normal administration”, he stopped again.
The tyrant claimed to have a last show for their guests, and sent away one of his soldiers. They waited for his return in silence for a while, and he took three women, a mother and two children.
Vlad then indicated that the post where they stopped before was: “inhabited by a philosopher”, probably a preceptor, given the young age, who, as others in the past, wanted to give his opinion: “about the meaning of human existence, the superiority of virtue over vice, gentleness over cruelty”.
In response to that opinion, he had been put there just to show him that if the mildness was stronger than cruelty, he would have not ended where he was, or someone else would have, or perhaps the Great Vlad would be in his place, which for sure that “mild philosopher” now was wishing with all his heart, betraying his own stupid words.
The philosopher, still alive, surely would never have thought by now that his position could have been worse, because he was dying in such a horrible way, but he had bad luck, added the Impaler with an almost imperceptible move of his moustache in his pale marble face.
His guards had found his family before he had expired, and since he was still conscious (after being reawakened by fire), as a last lesson and to let him have all the necessary information to know what to think about existence, gentleness and virtue: he would have attended to the execution of all his wife and daughters.
At last he could speak about how the rules of nature work and what they really are, seeing how stupid he was babbling with his bookish expertise. Perhaps it was to be considered an unnecessary lesson? And unnecessary the sorrows and pain of the three poor females? Since he would be dead soon? But what is considered to be useful, after all? Does not the philosopher say that knowledge has value in itself? Well! Here it is! The knowledge!
The knowledge to be a weak man, incapable to protect the ones he loves! Or even being the cause of their tortures! “That was the wrong man to have offspring with, young lady! Shame on you!”
The ways of God are infinite, and it is an horrible misfortune to pursue some of them. His henchmen, without flinching, impaled in a few minutes all of the poor little family, completely insensitive to the cries of suffering of a mother and her children.
Vlad repeatedly dipped his fingers in the warm and steamy blood of the last three victims and savored it.
“The blood has the same flavor, both infidels and Christians, the pure blood is all the same, and the blood is what is relevant in life!” he said.
No one could ever describe what the young man felt in those moments, not even he was able to, all the fierce hatred, and contempt for the monster and his aides, all the unspeakable horror and the only desire of not having to watch that scene, or to die quickly instead.
He, trembling, reports he cannot even begin to speak of his feelings, it was like dying and being born again in a life of horror. He says he just wanted to forget and escape from those persecuting thoughts and haunted memories.
But there where he was, frozen before that delirious scene. Even without meaning to, he once again he managed, to move by mere instinct, unaware of it, remaining placid and inert, or perhaps petrified, seized by a sort of trance.
While watching the killing of the two young daughters and listening to their high screams, he couldn’t help but emit an involuntary deep groan of pity and sorrow.
The other ambassador, however, was so shocked and terrified that this time he made no gesture or said a single word, nor moved a muscle.
When they were finished, as if waking from a long bloodcurdling nightmare, they went in silence back to the entrance of the castle, entering the opposite side from where they came out, having completed a whole ride around the walls.
Just before crossing the gates, Vlad paused again, throwing the last two survivors back into a new panic.
He stated that: “Terror has a fundamental role in survival because it is mostly from it that people can find the urge to go ahead, and the will to survive at all costs. Everyone says they are willing to sacrifice their lives for this or for that, but when the terror starts they are no longer willing!”
The more terrified people are, the more attached to life! And everyone is always just terrified for himself, and never for others. Love doesn’t matter, after all! Because nobody is really generous, everyone pretends to be so just in order to make a good impression to others and gain some advantage from that; they all are just moved by an hypocrite greed: after all, they always act just to save themselves or improve their situation! All this is nothing but selfishness!
He, yes, Vlad, he was the truly generous one: he was fighting a just war and that benefited everyone. He was fighting for nothing in exchange, but the intimate knowledge that he was the long and relentless hand of the true God.
He was the only generous human being that the world had ever seen!
He stared the diplomat who had made the speech in favor of the convicted colleague.
Why did he intercede for the colleague? Because he saw himself in the other! And why did he stop then and not speak further before the killing of a woman and her two little girls? A far more cruel act! Because he just wanted to save his own skin now! For selfishness!
Because, after having attended at the end of the companion, he did not want to risk anything himself, trying to intercede again, with courage, in favor of a woman and her girls, even though in his heart he considered it a horrible choice to kill them.
That’s what he was worth, his piety and his shared: “Christian values of charity!” They were relevant only until they reached the terror itself!
While facing this terror, which for him was now the only true God, a God as hard and heavy like a stone, even the Christian God disappeared completely, it has been suddenly erased, leaving no mark, by terror. Infidel! Heathen! Scum!
Even before the merciless execution of innocent people, he had become unable to speak. And analyzing the situation in a more subtle way, also before he spoke for selfishness, he acted like that just in order to earn a “merit”, trying to deflect the actions on the hand of the Lord, to change what was already written, and thinking he was not risking anything in order to achieve that silly purpose.
That arrogance, but even more, that selfishness, were lamentable! No, he would not have spoken at all if he had known from the beginning that the penalty for those who lie and try to cheat with vain words the tyrant is death, nay, especially that death!
Vlad, angry, was looking at both diplomats: “from time to time orienting their inordinately cruel and foolish eyes”, perhaps seeking a pretext to decide on their fate: if to kill them, or which one of them, or maybe both, sooner or later. He was slowly enjoying all their terror, before giving the order to impale them.
Then he looked away from the young man: “staring for long moments just at the other ambassador, close and insistently, with a face of unfathomable cruelty on which shone a ghastly and mocking grin that the other pretended not to see, and not to understand the meaning”.
Then he whistled and said to his man that the time had come to finish the job already started.
The unfortunate man had already issued a moan of terror, collapsing under the watchful eye of his terrible host, invaded by the deepest fear, and because of the tension, even before listening to the order of having to be impaled him as well.
He suddenly started to tremble and whine: “evidently begging God to be spared by such a fate.” But after Vlad turned his sight to his guards, in a fit of insane clarity, and looking for a desperate way to escape that kind of death, he pulled out a dagger, and before the military managed to lay their hands on him, he tried to shove it into his own heart.
Due to his hesitation, he could not realize his wise intentions and kill himself.
The soldiers performed, therefore, the orders of their lord, and cruelly they said to the young man that the only reliable way for him to kill himself before being grabbed, and prevent the torture of the impalement, would have been to cut the jugular: no one could ever stop the bleeding in time.
Vlad seemed rather amused by the course of events and the comments of his men, as if they had a long series of such experiences in common to share, and just a few cases of escaped victims.
Then the voivode addressed to our young man with a sort of strange, confidential and good-natured harangue, as if to kindly illustrate a secret to him, being so young and inexpert: “the courage, you see, my boy, is such a rare virtue and so, so difficult to find that even when you know it is the only thing that could save you, you can’t meet it in yourself if you don’t posses it already, nor you are able to lie about it and pretend to have it, nor you can make it come true by your own fear and terror”.
With that, they entered in the castle while the armed men stood outside together with others.
From then on, Vlad said he had other things to do and that if the young man preferred instead to accompany him to retire, he had every opportunity to do so.
The only survivor of the expedition (at that point) confused about what could possibly be the best option to prevent his own impalement, in order to try to impress the leader and to continue acting with his staged imperturbability, surprisingly (even to himself) he agreed to follow him.
He was convinced, and tormented by the fact that the tyrant had noticed his moan before the execution of the little family, being sure that sooner or later he would have to pay the consequences of his cowardice.
During the rest of the day, in spite of the fear that he could be executed at any moment, nothing noteworthy happened, at least in comparison with the atrocities experienced up to that time: “the most horrifying day of my life, a life from now on marked from that unfortunate experience”.
At the end of the second day, of all the ambassadors that were in the castle, remained alive only the youngest and more innocent one.
He had been the only one able to return to the castle, perhaps thanks to his impassive demeanor, which had distinguished him from the rest of the ambassadors, but most likely only for the arbitrary will of the Lord of the place.
Perhaps the next day, he would have opened: “a new day of impalements” just to show to other delegations the hard rules of the place.
Perhaps his own salvation, prolonged until then, was nothing more than a sadistic game, as they had been all the disruptions and delays in the other’s executions.
Certainly he could not hope to be spared because of his young age, considering that two much younger girls were already been impaled without a blink of an eyelid before their parents. He was thinking restlessly about every single detail of the situation in order to be prepared to his fate.
At last he felt certain he too would have perished! But if there was a way to salvation, it could only have been to continue to show his military coolness and imperturbability.
He continued so, to pretend not to be afraid of being killed, staging a conversation with the lord in tranquility, both acting as if nothing had happened during that frenzied and horrendous day, as if the other colleagues had not lost their lives, and there was nothing to worry about.
After dinner, the young man went to his rooms without any unpleasant situation occurring. Once there, alone, he fell in the grip of an extraordinary agitation and he was completely unable to get to sleep.
He pulled out a sheet of paper and began to write to his wife just to be able to calm down a bit, thinking of his beloved one.
In general silence, just the feeble noise of his pen was distinguished, and the only light in the whole wing of the manor was perhaps the one of the glass of oil burning slowly on his table.
From time to time he stopped, straining his ears to the sound of footsteps approaching his door, and sometimes had to get up from the table and walk a little in order to dissipate the extreme tension of which he was easy prey.
In any case, he was more and more convinced that he would not come out alive from the manor and he would die that very night. So, he opened the window to get a chance to end his life without suffering the agony reserved for the others.
Often, thinking to hear noises from the outside, he stood on a stool, straining to hear everything better, and keeping close to the narrow opening in the wall in order to be ready to jump out if someone entered abruptly to catch him.
It was on that night of hell and torment that our young man wrote the story of what was happening to him.
The next morning, still sleepless, he had already closed the letter, and he was waiting for some news about his fate when an attendant knocked on the door, telling him from the outside that a coach was waiting to take him to the village where he had left his own escort and companions.
The joy and a precious hope possessed him deeply. Probably in his haste to leave, or just for the happiness and the new hope of escape from that horrible place, packing his belongings, he lost the letter he had written during the long hours of the anguished night before.
It had likely slipped from a pocket of his coat while he was putting it on with great enthusiasm.
Before leaving, the lord, very early, wanted to say goodbye to him, and asked him if he understood what he had to report back to those who had sent him, about his “needs” and the situation of prolonged war he would be facing.
Of course! The young man nodded. He had understood perfectly that Vlad did not need to say a single word to anyone, and that any offer of help or business proposal was either unnecessary or useless.
No one of the other delegations would return home, the message was equally clear in the silence of death and disappearance, but he had the privilege of being able to report it in person.
The young man climbed into the carriage, repeating to the prince such ridiculous and excessive farewells that they can easily seem a mockery, but approaching the opportunity to get out of there made him elated, even imprudent.
At parting with so much gratitude, anyway, he felt even to be sincere! The lord accepted all those demonstrations of respect, smiling slyly, as if he were fully aware of the thoughts and terror, and the hopes and the root of his passionate phrases.
The life, the life and the terror were vibrating everywhere inside of the young man! But after all, the sole survivor of that butchery expedition was still in the castle, the place of terror: not safe.
The mind of the young man harbored the idea that everything he was living was nothing more than another farce, and that he soon would have been stopped, or maybe even let go only to be recaptured and impaled.
Maybe he would have been impaled before who knows what kind of other “spectators”, who will would be impaled in turn before others, and so on and on, forever.
He did not know if all he was experiencing was nothing more than a sum of cruel farces, set up for amusement, and to make joke of the whole world and of him and his staged, artificial impassivity that was rooted only in fear and selfishness: something about which Vlad had spoken with deep contempt just the day before. If the colleagues deserved death for such little blunders, he too would have deserved the same fate, he knew it.
Suddenly he felt like he would have not be able to resist the tension anymore and was at the point of losing control, just the way all the other ambassadors did the day before. He was about to give into panic and horror, sardonically just a moment before salvation? So he made one last huge effort.
It was like a dream when the carriage finally passed rapidly the last gates of the castle and merged into the countryside, infested by rotten corpses.
Now, starting to really believe he was close to salvation, the young man had the emotional breakdown he was terrified he would have in the presence of Vlad.
But no! He had made it! He resisted enough! He closed all the curtains of the carriage, trembling, in order not to be forced to witness any longer the horrors that surrounded him and would continue haunting him for the rest of his days.
He closed everything scrupulously in order not to see anyone, alive or dead, as he sobbed and wept for the fatigue and tension of this prolonged act.
Gripped by terror, he put his trembling hands in his pockets, looking for consolation in the love of his dear, dear wife, evocated by some object related to her: his desperate letter. He started dreaming about hugging her again.
He tried for a while, absentmindedly, to find the paper with the stories he had written for her the night before, and that he would never deliver to her if he could return home.
His intention now was not to say a word about all the horrors he was forced to see and endure during his mission, not to drag her into that crazy and creepy vortex of inhumanity, but it was impossible for him to find the script. After a distracted and confused search, he finally realized he had lost the letter!
Suddenly a new and invincible wave of terror took possession of him. He was not yet far enough away to feel safe, maybe it would not be until they arrived at home.
He began to sweat, his hands grew shaky, panic flooded him, as he was locked inside those fragile wooden walls that reminded him of a coffin. He was terrorized by the possible consequences of the loss.
Each meter he proceeded in the direction of his house, he hoped that was not the last, when suddenly the carriage stopped.
He began to breathe loudly and panting, not daring to move aside the curtain to look out and see what was going on. He took out his dagger. Absolute silence!
Vlad is out there, that was what he felt, with his minions, with ropes and poles, expecting him to make the first move! He would have died impaled in countless hours of agony on that arid clearing, away from everyone he loved, unable to see his beloved again.
He put the knife on his throat, ready to cut it.
Perhaps she was out there, his beloved young, beautiful wife. Perhaps Vlad kidnapped her and, pushing aside the curtain, he would have seen her, naked, impaled, covered in blood agonizing and moaning in pain. No! He felt nauseous.
He began to cry, terrified, assaulted by the deepest horrid panic, frantic, not knowing whether to step out of the carriage and run, trying to escape, or wait, or move aside the black curtain to see what the heck was really going on.
Perhaps the best thing to do would have been to try one last time to find in himself his manly courage, speak to the driver and order to him peremptorily to move on. But he was not able to do it.
He remained motionless, stiff, rigid until he felt pain, planting his hands on the opposite sides of the curved cockpit, without rest on the seat, ready to run away, to kill himself, and drenched in a cold sweat.
For long minutes, he was motionless, unable to make a decision. Eventually he found the courage and looked to see what was happening, taking care not to be seen by the driver. Nothing! There was nothing outside. Very strange!
The coachman, without saying a word, abruptly started driving again faster than ever, like a madman, careless of the fate of axes and wooden wheels.
At the village, where he was awaited by those who had accompanied him, he begun to run like a maniac, possessed. Raving, he forced everyone to stop their chess games, ordering them to prepare immediately and depart. To everyone, it was clear that the poor man was shaken, and for this reason he was indulged.
During the trip, he was unable to calm down: he was sitting rigid and sweating on the sidelines, or he started shaking seized by a strange malaise, always babbling that he would like to get home faster.
Throughout the journey, he was inexplicably talking about a letter he had lost and that if found would have put him in serious trouble, that what he saw he could not be able to explain again, that he does not know how he lost the letter, that he had been very lucky, very lucky, that that man, he kills everybody, he drinks the blood, he is inhuman…
He was constantly speaking with rambling sentences, discussing about impalements, philosophy, selfishness, war. Such a delirium.
And for all the journey he insisted and repeated the same things a thousand times, no one understanding completely what he was referring to, and what he was wishing to communicate exactly.
All those stories and legends about that place and the voivode must be true after all, they did well, the men of the escort, to give credit to them, and do not believe those who said that they were just exaggerations and legends: look at that poor boy! They have done the right thing to stay away, remaining comfortable in their hovel tavern, playing chess and cards and drinking.
His friends tried to reassure him in every way and to convince him that he was no more in danger, but he seemed not to be able to hear or understand them.
Several days later, at home (at last), even at the sight of his wife he was not able to recover. He hugged her softly for hours, trembling and stammering, without being understood.
From then on, he would not be able, for years and years, to sleep with a minimum of tranquility, nor ever completely recover the faculty of speech.
He will continue for the rest of his days struggling to express himself, and just whispering and mumbling shyly only a few sentences, and rigorously only to his wife.
His mental faculties will always remain severely compromised, his nerves no longer supporting him, and he will seem to be blanched and tired as if he was already at an advanced age, despite being only at the threshold of thirty.
Only at the sight, and in company, of his wife he will be seen with a minimum of serenity, relief and sadly smiling.
She, on the other hand, will always be faithful to him for the rest of her life, and she will never leave him, and she will fill him with that love and dedication of which forever he will seem to be infinitely greedy and dependent.