Message From The Author
Who Was the Real DRACULA?
By Melodie Romeo
Surely you have heard of Dracula—everyone has. But did you know that there really was a Vlad Dracula? My first novel, Vlad, a historical romantic thriller, mixes carefully researched facts about the villainous prince with fictional characters and events to fill in the gaps that history has left us regarding this bloodthirsty 15th-century Romanian prince.
Vlad Dracula (also known as Vlad Tepes and Vlad the Impaler) was born in Transylvania in 1431, the middle son of Vlad Dracul, the prince of Walachia (a province of what is now modern Romania). Even as a young boy, he had a fascination with death, climbing to a window in the palace overlooking the executions. When he was 11, Vlad and his younger brother, Radu, were taken hostage by the Sultan of the Ottoman Turks, and while in Turkish hands Vlad became enthralled with the execution method known as impaling. It was often a slow and tortuous way to die. Death could be instantaneous, but most often the victim was left dangling, waiting for gravity to pull his or her body through the long, wooden stake.
In 1448, Vlad learned that his father and older brother had been murdered by Hungarian and Walachian noblemen who opposed his rule. The sultan loaned young Vlad a small force to retake the principality, but he was unable to hold power and fled to neighboring Moldavia. In 1456, Vlad orchestrated a coup, killing the Walachian prince in power and establishing a bloody reign that lasted six years. During this time period, it is estimated that he killed at least 100,000 people.
And yet, many Romanians consider him a national hero. One reason is because he continually defeated the advances of the Ottoman Turks who threatened to invade Europe. He also eliminated crime. How, you may ask? Simple. All crimes were punishable by death. There is a famous tale of the well with the golden chalice that was never stolen in the six years of his reign. He also eliminated poverty; you guessed it—by killing the poor. Numerous accounts record Vlad's tactic of inviting "unproductive" members of society to great feasts, promising that they will never go hungry again, and then burning down the building with all inside.
Vlad did not limit his executions to criminals and vagrants; clergymen, nobles and foreign diplomats were not exempt. One of his first acts as prince was to hold a great Easter feast, inviting all of his nobles, their families, and servants to attend. Once inside, he accused them of plotting to murder his father and brother. He had all who were adults at the time of the assassinations impaled along with their wives and servants. The youths were sent on a 50-mile forced march to rebuild his castle at Poenari. The young nobles worked in their Sunday clothes until they became rags, and then they continued naked until it was completed. Vlad scored points with the peasant class, for they were amused by the nobles becoming forced labor while many peasants were elevated into positions of nobility.
Vlad did not limit his killings to residents of his own principality. He went on a bloody rampage through Transylvania, murdering everyone in his path, in search of a rival to his throne. During this venture the rest of Europe discovered what he had really been up to. They described Dracula as "chopping up men, women, and children like cabbage." His taste for blood was insatiable; he would drink his victims' blood from a silver cup. Once he impaled 20,000 Turkish prisoners around the capital city to discourage an invasion; the tactic proved successful.
The bottom line is, Vlad Dracula was not a vampire; he was something much worse—a real man. He did not hesitate to torture any man, woman or child he chose. He was a monstrous, mass murderer on a scale unequaled in history until Adolf Hitler, and yet in his own way, he found a place
as nationalist and protector of Christendom in Romanian history. In VLAD, I focus on the last month of his life and the fictional characters who set about to end his bloody reign once and for all. After 14 years of exile, Vlad returned, but there were those who refused to let history repeat itself. The identity of the prince's killer is a mystery to history, but not to those who dare to enter his dark world and follow the treacherous course of our heroes as they set out on their quest. G
To read an excerpt, go to www.1stbooks.com or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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