Today we’re talking to Vlad the Impaler from "Dracula’s Mistress" by Carmen Stefanescu.
How old are you?
*Vlad appraises me with a penetrating eye, raises his chin and passes a hand over his thick moustache. A man used to giving orders and having them obeyed without question.* I’m in my thirties yet, there are moments when I feel as if I’m centuries old. Battles, betrayals, hostage in the Ottomans court, my family destroyed by the scheming boyars (landlords). . .
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
*Vlad frowns and shakes his head. He has a bitter smile on his face.* According to many, I shouldn’t see anything. Vampires can’t see themselves in any mirror, can they? I’m tired of trying to disprove them. Imagine that the other day a brat asked me, ‘Do you see yourself if you take a selfie?’ whatever that selfie means.
What is people’s first impression of you?
*He shrugs and shifts on his gold crested throne. His movement allows me a better view of the broad sword at his side. I wonder how many heads bit the dust after feeling its caress.* They are scared. I can notice their frightened looks and the beads of sweat covering their brows even in my cold stone palace. I can’t miss the shaken answers when I ask them something. There are moments when I feel sorry for them, but you know what? If I hadn’t been so severe, I couldn’t have stopped theft and laziness. I tested whether my technique for dissuading theft or dishonesty worked. I had a valuable gold bowl placed near a river crossing. The rule was that anybody could drink out of it, but it could not leave the place under any circumstances. The bowl stayed put! "Quod erat demonstrandum/ thus it has been demonstrated".
Name three of your favorite things.
*Vlad rubs his chin, his eyebrows raise, and something that looks more like a grin than a smile stretches the corners of his mouth. His voice is stern, with no vestige of sympathy in its hardness.* Aren’t we curious, dear lady? Well, I hope my answer won’t send you running away. Impaling my enemies, impaling traitors of their kin and country, impaling thieves and crooks. Satisfied?
What is your favorite food?
Nothing pleases me better than grilled catfish with polenta and peppery brine. The Danube is the home of some awesome, giant catfish. Fishermen from Braila send me some nice looking ones as a sign of appreciation that I freed them from the Turkish yoke.
What was your first impression of Angela Oltenescu?
*A tender look, something unusual for such a cruel man, seems to pass through his eyes.* Her innocencent look, her lack of fear conquered me from the very first second I saw her at the court festivity. *Vlad’s voice broke with huskiness. He fell silent for a moment and then went on.* I felt guilty at first as I was married, but all knew that my marriage was one of convenience. In exchange for her brother’s help when the Ottomans attack Walachia. And then, after what happened to my wife... Oh, you don’t know? Well, I won’t reveal more. Read the story and you’ll find out what became of Varvara, my wife.
What is your favorite song?
*The tense lines on Vlad’s face relax. He waves his hand.* I have no time for such silly things. But to give you a kind of answer, let’s say the music that delights my ears is the victory cry of my soldiers when they manage to push back the enemy. Or the rustle of the wind in the battle flags on the battlefield.
Are you close to family?
*He gazes in the distance, frowns and for a moment I imagine there are tears in his eyes. He clears his throat and raising his chin he replies* I was close to my brother Mircea. But the landlords, those treacherous bastards took his life. Radu, my younger brother. . . you know he was a hostage together with me at Egrigoz. Well, a lot of things happened. They are in the story if you want to know all the details. Truth is that now we are on cold shoulder terms. I have another brother who is a monk at Snagov Monastery near Bucharest. I respect and admire him, but we rarely see each other. So, you can draw your own conclusion.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
*Vlad leans forward and states clearly, as if he expected this question.* People say I was a vampire, but then, nobody is perfect.
If you could go back in time, what one thing would you change in your life?
*His eyes darken as he holds my gaze.* This is exactly what Angela asked me once. I’d have liked to be a common man, born in an ordinary family. My playground was the battlefield. My toys were swords and broad swords. My best friends were my own thoughts. *He suddenly stands up and his stance signals that my time is up. For a moment, I imagine I hear some muffled cries coming from the hidden corners of the Targoviste palace hall. Perhaps all the stories about the palace being haunted aren’t just stories. I thank him and retreat, satisfied my head is still on my shoulders. With characters like this one, you may never know. . .*
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