Bathed in Blood: The Transfiguration of Ruxandra cel Rău

By Alex O'Connell



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An Extract: The Beginning

…Mercifully, Dimitrije’s annoyance with Mihnea proved short lived and the following night the Drăculeşti were sitting in the foremost pew of a much busier Cathedral listening to the Archbishop sing High Mass in his angelically sweet tenor voice. This time he went in the traditional direction.

When the Mass was ended and the congregation left in peace to love and to serve the Lord, the Drăculeşti led the procession out of the Cathedral. They walked slowly, sedately, affording everybody the opportunity to look, admire and wonder. Although his family had dressed for the occasion, Mihnea himself, as was his want, wore simple, functional clothes. Yet there could be no doubt where the authority resided. The family walked in hierarchical order, Mihnea at the head with Mircea following closely in his wake. Behind them came Voica and Ruxandra together, both with heads covered and slightly bowed out of respect – to whom or what, they were not quite sure. Some way behind them, amidst the servants, came the backwards boy Miloș.

At the great, heaving door of the Cathedral, they paused to greet the Archbishop warmly and then they passed on into the small piazza which backed onto the church, and into the chill of the Transylvanian night air.

Some way behind them, a stranger pushed his way past the people milling about after Mass. His face wore a lean and hungry look like Cassius of old. His hand surreptitiously slipped beneath his cloak then immediately withdrew. As he approached Mihnea, a blade glinted in the moonlight.

Ruxandra noticed him first as he passed hurriedly by her and she seemed to sense that something was far from right. She froze just for a moment and then shook herself from her reverie, leaping forward, bellowing ‘Father!’ in warning at the top of her voice, and as she did so she drew her bejewelled stiletto from her belt. She moved towards the assassin like a flash of lightning but it was too little, too late.

Mihnea had turned when he heard his daughter’s cry and her saw the man, his would-be assailant. He recognised the face, he thought. Vaguely. Some acolyte of his Craiovescu enemies. Cowardly bastards.

‘For Wallachia and for God!’ the man screamed in Mihnea’s face and he drove his dagger deep into what passed for the voivode’s heart.

The thought that the damned gypsy witch had been right flashed through his mind but this was not quite what he had hoped for. His last words were ‘Oh, shit!’ Well, as epigrams go, there have been worse.

As Mihnea fell to the ground, Ruxandra came upon the assassin like a Fury from the tragedy by Aeschylus. She slammed her long, thin steel blade through the man’s back and punctured his heart. She allowed the knife to withdraw as he fell forwards, quite dead, landing in a heap atop Mihnea cel Rău.

She wiped the blade clean not on a kerchief, not even on her dress but on her cheeks. As she did so, she cut deeply into her own flesh, first the left, then the right. The blood of the assassin mixed with her own. She stood there, silent amidst the screams of her mother and the cries of her brothers. Even at the very moment of her father’s death, she had wreaked her revenge and her body now bore a permanent, tangible tribute to her vengeance. Now in a state of shock, a single tear fell from her eye, reddened as it ran through the blood on her cheek and dropped slowly to the floor.

Mircea kicked away the assassin’s corpse and bent over his father’s body examining it minutely for signs of life. There were none. That night Mihnea cel Rău had entered immortality.

In no more than a few seconds, Dimitrije Iaxici, who had been alerted by Ruxandra’s cry, was at Mircea’s shoulder.

‘Let me see him’ he insisted, pushing the family aside roughly and he fell to one knee by Mihnea’s lifeless body. ‘He’s not dead’ he called out, his voice betraying levels of anxiety that bordered on panic. ‘I can save him.’

With a mighty strength that belied his slight frame, he picked up Mihnea as if he weighed no more than a feather bolster and he sprinted with him towards his Palace.

The Drăculeşti were in no doubt that the voivode was dead, but they followed, hot on the Archbishop’s heels. Voica managed to gasp to her daughter, ‘The poor, poor man. It’s the shock. He’s losing his mind. It often happens to the religious.’

Dimitrije virtually kicked through the front door and ran down the corridor to his own private chamber. He turned at the entrance and commanded the Drăculeşti to wait. They stood in silence and tears for over half an hour until the door opened and Dimitrije emerged.
‘It’s alright. He’s resting now. You can see him.’ The Archbishop ushered them into the room. ‘The knife could not have pierced his heart, he must have fallen into some sort of catatonic coma’ he said.

The family knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that this could not be true. Each of them were just as sure that Mihnea had been killed as they were that he was now alive once more. Mihnea, lying on the bed, was breathing again. It was shallow, true, but he was breathing.
In all the excitement, no one paid any attention to the white linen bandage wrapped tightly around his throat and neck. Nor did they notice that his face, and his hands looked just slightly different. Not quite as they usually were. Dimitrije unconsciously prevented them from seeing more.

Mihnea spent the next week in isolation, ostensibly recovering from his wounds. Only Dimitrije was permitted to see him, to minister to his needs both physical and spiritual.
On the seventh night, Mihnea came to his family as they were assembled together, about to dine. Voica he dismissed perfunctorily; he told his children that he would visit each individually in turn and he bid them to await him in their chambers.

Ruxandra waited for over an hour before her father arrived.

‘My child’ he said. ‘Dimitrije tells me that you are a pearl beyond price and so I am to bestow upon you a great blessing. It is a wondrous gift. I have been told not to, but I have already visited this gift upon your brothers.’

‘Even Miloș?’

‘Even that one.’


‘In truth, I am not quite sure. I think it will be wasted on him. Perhaps it is because I was told not to.’

Ruxandra nodded, satisfied by this answer.

‘And mother?’

‘No. Not her.’

With this, Mihnea, who for a few brief months many lifetimes later and half a world away would be known as Jack, drew on the full extent of his nascent powers to enter his daughter’s mind and take control.

‘I will bestow on you, my dearest girl, my best beloved, the most precious thing I have – my vampire’s kiss.’

Ruxandra inclined her head and offered her father her neck willingly. She felt no fear, no apprehension. She welcomed him. He bit deeply into her jugular vein and drank deeply of her blood.

He drank and drank, and Ruxandra died.

With the nail of his index finger, a nail that had already grown into more of a talon, he ripped across his left wrist and let his thin, insipid blood flow freely into Ruxandra’s open mouth.

She coughed and gagged as she came back to life.

‘That which was dead, is now once more alive’ he proclaimed.

He sat next to Ruxandra and cradled her head gently, perhaps almost lovingly, something he had not done since she was a babe in arms, and then only very rarely.

Dimitrije came to her that night, arriving unannounced. She heard him silently approaching while he was still some way off.

‘Ruxandra cel Rău’ he said and sat on the bed beside her.

‘Don’t call me that’ she said, her voice still as soft and gentle as a spring shower. ‘That cognomen is one that has to be hard earned.’

‘And so you will earn it.’
‘So I will.’

‘But in the meantime, there is so much for you to learn. You are already beginning to feel your new powers?’

‘I feel vital, Dimitrije. And so strong. It is as if the stars would fall from the skies at my command.’

‘I think they probably would. And your senses? Have you noticed any changes yet?’

‘I have’ she said simply – nothing further needed to be said.

‘What you feel now is like the morning dew on the grassland compared to the great roaring Black Sea you will become. You really cannot begin to know the extent of your powers. But I know that your potentiality is limitless. You can, no, you will become the greatest of our kind.’

‘And you will teach me, my old pedagogue?’ she teased him gently.

‘I will. If you’ll allow it.’

‘I may allow it. But, tell me, what of my father? I understand he went against your wishes when he gave the gift to my brothers.’

‘That he did. They are, as well you know, unworthy to bear the name vampire. I will… have words with him.’

‘Then make them gentle words, pray. For my sake. They are, after all blood of my blood.’

Dimitrije thought for a moment and then bowed his head acquiescing. He smiled a lascivious, old, wolf-like smile. ‘Are you hungry, my love?’ he asked. ‘Would you care to feed with me?’
‘Thank you, but I think I should like to prepare my own meal. I know what to do.’

‘Of that, I have no doubt.’ Dimitrije stood. ‘My city, Ruxandra, I give to you. It is your larder. I wish you a good night. We will talk again tomorrow.’

He kissed her chastely on each still scarred cheek and left the room…



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