Authors: Candace L Bowser
Orislov’s voice did not waiver as he spoke. He spoke with great clarity and conviction.
“Then Orislov, it shall be you who delivers his judgment; for it was from you he first stole.”
I watched as Vladimir drew his sword and placed it in Orislov’s hands. He then took the chalice from my hand and set it in the center of the
square on a stool next to the kneeling thief. In a single swift movement, Orislov cut the man’s hands from his body. Vladimir hung the man’s hands above the chalice.
“Let his hands bear warning to all who would consider such an act against God and against their Viovode as a silent witness that such acts will not be tolerated in Wallachia so long as a Solider of God reigns.”
My mouth, I know, was agape at what I witnessed. Never before such brutality had I seen unfold before me. Yet I could see he felt justified in his actions. In his heart, he felt his actions were and the ease at which he had influenced those in his presence left me in awe. Before me stood a man who would lead thousands of men to victory in the name of God, who would follow his actions without question, and I feared would leave a trail of blood never before witnessed in the name of God.
Ahbrim’s journal continued…
15 February 1448
How pleased I was when Mordecai arrived this day to witness our work here at Targsor. He appeared pleased at what Vladimir wished to accomplish and inquired at length about Targoviste and Campulung. The good Sisters have completed the invitations for the Easter Services and Dinner that Vladimir will hold at Targoviste Castle. His willingness to meet with the Boyars is pleasing to both the Archbishop and I. Perhaps the old anguishes can be laid to rest is what Mordecai hopes. I attempted to explain that it is a more complicated matter. The Boyars have nearly bled the treasury dry. It is not a matter with complications and deep seeded anger where Vladimir is concerned. The Boyars did not
intercede, nor did they rally the army to counterattack after the death of Mircea or after the death of his father. Though Vladimir does not speak of it and I am unsure of whether or not he knows the complete details surrounding their deaths, the blood there is bad. I fear it will not end in their favor. Vladimir has shown his distaste for the ruling class of the Boyars. He has shown how deep his convictions. Between what he views an affront to God and disrespect against the Dracul, I am apprehensive about Mordecai’s falsely placed optimism.
The new mill is completed. Targsor will be a bustling route of trade by the spring thaw as Vladimir predicted. Now we await response from Hunyadi and Matthias. Mordecai agrees Vladimir should focus on the undertaking of marriage. He has made arrangements for the daughter of Urisevi Batishiaiori Bas to attend the Viovode Ritual of the Dracul announcing Vladimir’s return as the rightful heir two weeks following Easter.
Mordecai says that her name is Elisabeta Bes - a striking beauty whose pious nature will be a compliment to Vladimir’s devout character. I pray he will find her a suitable woman to court. Such a match would be pleasing in the eyes of God and would unite the Romanian and Wallachian courts, strengthening our nation not only in the eyes of God, but also as a country.
Ahbrim Baserab’s Journal
The repairs at Targoviste, Vladimir hastened in preparation for the feast this day. Mordecai arrived two days past to begin preparing the Cathedral for the services at sunrise. I must attest to the fact the Boyars appeared surprised at the reception they received upon their arrival. Vladimir himself greeted each one and bid them welcome to his temporary home. He says he will make his announcement of the betrothal of his hand to Elisabeta Bes of Romania. Never have I before seen a man so taken with a woman. Certainly, it is as God intends.
Vladimir will host the wedding here in the summer. He says he wishes to have the splendor of God surround her so that even the heavens may look down upon her beauty the day he weds her. “No expense is to be spared,” he said, smiling. An expression I so rarely have the pleasure of seeing. Vladimir loves her deeply. It is a greater gift than even I could have hoped God would have bestowed upon him.
Her father placed Mordecai as her guardian while she resided at Targoviste until the nuptials. Mordecai then placed Elisabeta in my charge.
He said, “What better a man to care for her soul than the man who also cares for her husband.”
She is a very pious woman, shy, and rarely raises her eyes to gaze upon another, even when she is spoken to, with the exception of Vladimir, whom she looks directly in the eye, but only if I am at her side. She is a virtuous woman, which I believe to be one of the reasons that she is so endearing to him. In his absences, I have no doubt her faithfulness will never be questioned.
The Pope has sent his own tailors to suit the couple for their wedding. Vladimir is to lead a Crusade against the Ottomans for the Pope, beginning only days after their marriage, as gratitude for his continued blessing and support. His blessing he also lends to their wedding. Mordecai says it is rumored Pios himself might attend their nuptials and bless their marriage bed so that it might be fruitful. How glorious that day shall be for them both.
There is much yet to prepare for this night’s dinner for the Boyars. Elisabeta will not be attending, at Vladimir’s request, as it for the Boyars and their Knights. He had requested that Mordecai and I attend along with the Wallachian Guard. An announcement of great importance this night is to be made, he has said, one that will change Wallachia forever.
“Come Ahbrim, sit next to me,” he said as dinner began.
His mood appeared somber as the Boyars gathered, taking their places around the large table in the dining hall. Their numbers were nearly one hundred as they gathered with their sons. Vladimir spoke little throughout the course of the meal. He appeared to grow more agitated as the evening progressed while he observed their every action, angered by their lack of manners and greed as they continuously served themselves again and again without first asking their host. He stroked his moustache as he glared slightly, a silent indicator of his displeasure. Even Mordecai took note of his rising anger.
Suddenly, Vladimir rose from the table without warning. His guard stood to attention at his standing, startling the Boyars as they ate.
“Tell me, as a Regent Boyar each of you, how many in the House of Baserab have you served, or how many Princes have you seen pass?”
He circled the table, his arms behind his back, his hands interlaced as he paused behind each Boyar.
The first Boyar was more aged than the others. His four sons surrounded him.
“I have seen seventeen in the House of Baserab serve, Prince.”
“And yet you have continued though each of them has fallen. This is true?”
The Boyar nodded his head in silence.
Vladimir cast his eyes downward before I saw the slight nod of his head as he slowly raised his eyes to his guard before moving onto the next Boyar.
“What manner of madness possesses him?” Mordecai whispered to me.
“I am not certain, Archbishop. Let it unfold as it will. Brilliance manifests through ways I myself often do not understand.”
His progression and line of questioning took hours until he reached the final two Boyars, each of them young men in their years compared to the many who surrounded them.
“How many years a Boyar have you lived?”
“But seven years, Prince Vlad.”
“And in such time what was the greatest tragedy you witnessed?”
“Is it the truth you wish to come forth or what they wish me to speak?”
His candor I could see greatly impressed Vladimir. He pushed the elder Boyar next to him from his chair, knocking him to the floor, and took the chair next to the young Boyar.
“This man who sets next to you, his resemblance is strong. He is your brother, I assume.”
“He is my lord.”
“And what house do you serve?”
“We serve the House of Baserab. We are born of the House of Nasady.”
“And what truth would you speak to me?’
“The truth, Prince Vladimir, is my people starve under heavy taxation. My brother and I sought to eliminate this, but were faced with staunch opposition, with only one supporter on our side: your brother Mircea, may he rest in peace. I sit at the end of the table not because I am the youngest, but because I am ostracized.”
“What is your given name and that of your brother?” Vladimir asked as Mordecai and I looked on.
“I am Nicolai; my brother, Velascon.”
They were the only two Boyars who sat at the table over which Vladimir did not nod. He also did not nod over the sons of the Boyars who sat at the table.
“Come Nicolai and Velascon; join Ahbrim and Mordecai at the head of the table where men of honorable intentions are gathered.”
All eyes were on the Nasady men as they passed. Curses and insults were uttered beneath the breaths of the Boyars. My worst fears were realized as I watched Vladimir lift his right hand to signal his guard.
“Kill only the ones who will not be able to labor,” he said without emotion as he picked up his chalice and called for his wine. I watched in horror as their heads rolled across the table while Vladimir dined as though the bloody spectacle was not transpiring before him.
“You are mad,” Mordecai screamed, as he leapt from the table.
“I am sensible. They shall steal from my kingdom no more.”
With no emotion, Vladimir tore his bread, offering it to Nicolai and Velascon.
“Truth is rewarded. Honesty is rewarded. You, Nicolai, and your brother, are honest men who served my brother faithfully and now you shall serve me. Take those who live from my sight to Poenari. Oversee the rebuilding of my home. Make ready the castle for the arrival of the Princess. Do not disappoint me.”
Nicolai paused as though he wished to speak.
“Never fear me, Nicolai, unless you have been unfaithful to the House of Baserab. Speak what you know is that which is in your heart.”
“They will not be sufficient for the work that lays ahead, my lord. I know many stone cutters who serve the House of Nasady who would be honored to say they serve the true Baserab.”
“You may hire as many as needed so long as they do not labor but to cut the stone. Am I understood?”
“Yes, my lord.” Nicolai motioned to the Royal Guard to remove the remaining Boyars and their sons.
“And, Nicolai, do not treat them well because they are Boyars. I expect them to be treated no better than they have treated those they had in their keep. Should they die in my service, then so be it.”
“This is not the will of God,” Mordecai interjected.
“You are not an anointed Soldier of God, Mordecai. You are a caretaker of souls. Do what you must and pray for their souls but know this: do not interfere in my affairs or that of my country. No man, be he a man of God or not, will stand between what God and I must do to cleanse Wallachia of the evil and sin bred here.”
I stood as Vladimir left. Mordecai retched upon his leaving, sickened at the sight before him.
“Pios must be told of this,” he whispered.
“You will speak of this not, not to Pios, not to anyone. This matter you will leave to me.”
“He will be our undoing. God save us.” Mordecai crossed himself as he backed toward the door.
“God will save us, Mordecai, just as God chose to protect and save our Vladimir while he endured those devils. Yet in the darkness he endured, he turned not from God, and instead he turned toward Him, embraced Him, taking His words and commandments into his heart. His methods you find harsh. But I tell you, in this man who stood before you, there is the will of God; a will so strong, even the devil could not pull his faith from him. You may abandon him. You may turn your back on him. In my charge, you placed him. I will not do so. I will never turn from him.”
I sat alone, without Vladimir, without the Guard, with only my prayers and the severed heads of the Boyars lying about the table as I prayed. Fifty-four of the Boyars lay dead. Their families soon to be exiled; their wealth soon to be seized. I spent the next four hours removing their bodies and preparing their souls, offering last rites to deliver them to their judgment
. Hours later, when Vladimir returned, I sat alone, the hall now cleared of the atrocities I had witnessed.
“You are not troubled by my actions this day, Ahbrim. I find this distressing.”
I could barely turn my gaze toward him as the events of the day were still fresh in my memory.
“Would it please you if I cowered at your feet?” I asked.
“In my presence you should never cower, Ahbrim. I merely assumed your countenance would be shaken. You do understand, I hope, why this must be done.”
My silence conveyed my displeasure. I did not condone it. As his spiritual
guardian, I would support him, no matter the cost.
“You worry so much, Ahbrim. Come, we shall pray for them to find peace and to know God in death, the way they did not know him in life.”
I prayed with him before the same altar that would witness the sanctity of marriage to his Elisabeta. His words sincere and heartfelt as he prayed, I wondered how one man could be such a contradiction; one moment filled with piety and the next with cruelty. Those questions I asked God as I knelt next to Vladimir as we prayed that He would give me clarity. For in my heart I cannot find the strength to condemn Vladimir for his actions. I feel a closeness to him that is inexplicable. Perhaps it is the will of God that I was to be his guardian, for I believe now I understand him as no other man could.