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The Bathory Curse

The Bathory Curse

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The Bathory Curse

Length:
354 pages
5 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Nov 8, 2015
ISBN:
9781310784392
Format:
Book

Description

It is said that Vlad the Impaler's first wife jumped to her death rather than be with such a monster, however...

Princess Cneajna of Transylvania didn’t expect to be brought back from death’s door by an ancient Pagan Goddess. She certainly never asked to be made into an immortal witch. All she wanted was to live out her life the wife of Vlad the Impaler and mother of his two sons. However, now she has a new life, and with it comes the impossible task of breaking a centuries old curse placed on the women of her family. A curse that drives each one insane. To make matters even more complicated this is a family she didn’t even know she was related to: The Bathory’s.

Publisher:
Released:
Nov 8, 2015
ISBN:
9781310784392
Format:
Book

About the author

Renee Lake is a mother of four from Utah. She loves bats and is passionate about women's reproductive rights. Her lame super hero power is being able to sing any song after only hearing it once. This is quite problematic when her husband listens to French pop music.Her favorite book is Jurassic Park and her favorite movie is any version of Sense and Sensibility she can get her hands on.She has eight books published. When she's not taming her crazy kids or writing, you can find her exploring the wilds of Thedas or shopping at the Citadel.


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The Bathory Curse - Renee Lake

The Bathory Curse

By Renee Lake

Copyright © 2014 Renee Travis/ Renee Lake

First Published November 2015 by Renee Lake and Smashwords and Createspace

ISBN: 1517706955

ISBN13: 9781310784392

First Edition

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Dedication:  to you, the darkness, the shadows, the ancient and old. To the great goddesses forgotten and the things that lurk outside our peripheral vision, hidden from this realm. To Bram Stoker, Vlad the Impaler, Elizabeth Bathory, Jack the Ripper and all the other people I have been fascinated with and loved my whole life. This one is for the grown up me.

Disclaimer: this novel is historical fantasy. The life of Vlad the Impaler, his wives, and children are strewn with inconstancies and heresy, most of the facts known about them are the atrocities committed and the locations they took place. For the plot and characters of this novel I have done as much research as I can and fit the people and the times to the story line, they may not be historically accurate. I have tried to blend fantasy with history and actual events with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the legend of Elizabeth Bathory. I hope you enjoy.

Authors Note:

This is a self-published novel. It has been through three beta readers (one who was a professional newspaper editor) and several revisions for grammar, spelling and content. So apologies for anything that may have been missed. Bright Blessings

Chapter 1

1462

Cneajna, lay half in and half out of the river. Her neck twisted in an awkward position, body broken along the rocks, but hidden from view of the castle by the deep forest of trees. Water sloshed over her cerulean chemise, drenching her form, as rivulets of her blood seeped into the murky water.

The sounds of fighting could be heard in the night, swords clashing, horses screaming and men yelling. The stench of blood and death filled the air.  No one noticed the beautiful woman, whose body lay dying and whose soul was fighting the urge to make it to the afterlife.

Poenari Castle stretched tall in the background, unmoving against the onslaught. Set against a cliff in the Wallachia valley, the Fagaras Mountains making it a striking, albeit, scary sight.

A tall attractive woman stood near the river. A braid of thick black hair wound around her head, covered by a hooded mantle held together with a glimmering brooch. Golden eyes shown from a face that could have been carved perfectly from terracotta. Her skin was dark and she was clothed in a short black chiton, covering snug silver under garments. Wrapped around her broad shoulders was a wolf’s skin against the biting night air, and nipping at her heels two small red and black foxes begging for her attention.

Gina, Petru, stop, I have work to do, her voice was soft in the night and the foxes stilled, watching their mistresses every move.

Bending down, she touched the matted black hair of the woman and breathed onto her. Within minutes, skin stitched itself together, leaving the smallest of scars, bones healed, organs repaired themselves, the girl’s heart began to beat, air forced its way, cold and unforgiving, into her lungs. Her eyes fluttered and then opened as, shivering, she took in a breath.

Cneajna, Princess of Transylvania, and wife of Vlad the Impaler, awaken and rise. The woman commanded.

Cneajna did, it took her a few moments, especially since she scrambled to get out of the water and up the embankment.  Soaking, she trembled in front of the older woman. Her clothes stained with watery blood and she could feel her hair tangled and stuck to the side of her face.

Why am I not dead? She asked, voice raspy, her throat still healing.

The better question should be how did you fall? The woman pointed to the castle, and the window nearest them.

I didn’t… I was…pushed… Cneajna stopped speaking. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath as memories came plunging back into her mind, Radu…he pushed me. Anger began to fill her, she hated her brother-in-law, and things in their family had not been cordial; at least not all the time, but she never thought the man would try and kill her.

Yes, you were thrown to your death by your husband’s brother. People will think you committed suicide; this river will now be known as Raul Doamnei. The Lady’s River.

But I am alive! Cneajna exclaimed, I will simply march back up to Poenari and tell my husband what has happened. Panic began to fill her chest, she couldn’t be dead! She was standing, talking, breathing! She placed a hand to her heart and felt the beat.

And what has happened? The woman questioned, How will you explain that you survived the fall? Do you wish to be accused of witchcraft?

It was a miracle, God has saved me. Cneajna told her, pride in her dark blue, twilight eyes. Who was this woman? What was going on?

The woman barked a laugh that had the vixen and her mate backing up nervously, God? Why would God save you?

Because my husband is a crusader, he is fighting to stop the Turks from taking Wallachia. Cneajna defended. She didn’t feel cold, why didn’t she feel cold? It was winter in the woods, she should be freezing.

Your Christian God cares no more for you then he does anything else. Besides, your husband can be tyrannical and has committed some obscene atrocities. The Christian God does not appreciate you or Vlad Dracul. The woman said, chuckling.

I admit over the years he has done some things I am not proud of, but the people love him. she argued, thinking of all the time she had spent praying for guidance, for both of them. Her brain felt fuzzy, this had to all be a horrible dream, right?

He is a warlord. This land is ravished by men trying to keep a hold of something wild. These lands were once peaceful and now the soil is red with blood, caused by men like your husband and his family. The woman took a deep breath, calming herself.

Then why am I alive? Cneajna asked, for the first time really looking at the woman in front of her. She was slightly familiar, perhaps a saint of some kind or an angel, or maybe something much, much worse? As she took in the details of the woman and the woods, she rubbed her temples. It was pitch black, why could she see everything in crisp clarity? It was not day; but yet even with the darkness she noticed the detailed patterns on the fox’s fur.

Because I have use for you. I am Bendis, Goddess of Night, Magick and the Hunt. I have raised you from the dead and now you owe allegiance to me. Bendis said, smiling, and it was kind. She didn’t want to frighten Cneajna, but the thought of being an angel was fairly humorous.

Bendis….it cannot be possible. Bendis is a pagan Goddess. Cneajna shook her head, her wet blue black hair flying every which way. This could not be happening, she had been told ancient stories about the Goddess who used to roam these woods, but they were simply stories told by gypsies. Wrapping her arms around her chest her eyes kept darting up to the castle, none of this was real, it couldn’t be, she needed to go home, and if it was real…a slow burn filled her chest, she would kill Radu herself.

It is possible and I am she. See with your eyes Cneajna, your real eyes.

Cneajna looked at the Goddess and knew she was right. There was nothing human about her, she was just too much; too beautiful, too powerful, too frightening.

What do you want from me? Cneajna felt despair. Too many beliefs were crashing down around her; there was too much information in such a short amount of time. She was having a hard time processing it.

First we must talk about what you are now and how you are to survive. Come, walk with me. With a wave of her hand Cneajna was dry and in a thick fur coat, she even had boots.

Bendis and Cneajna walked in silence for a while before the goddess spoke again, the foxes ran a head, yipping and playing together. Cneajna felt such wonder, never before had she walked through these woods without fear, with such ease and with the ability to see so far and so clear. She sniffed and could smell more than she wanted to, again anxiety filled her to the brim, she needed to stop and think, and this was too fast. She didn’t understand what was going on. However, it was as if she was compelled to keep walking.

You are now a Strega. Bendis began.

A Strega. The word left a sour taste in Cneajna’s mouth. A Strega was an immortal witch, usually blamed for sickness, death and evil. Looking at the Goddess she began to wonder, had she been kidnapped by something evil? Why would her God allow her to be punished so?

I am not evil; in fact your definitions of good and evil are limited to a mortal’s knowledge. I have not kidnapped you, let us save the dramatics for another time. Bendis stated, a hint of annoyance in her tone. Bendis stopped; she placed cold hands on Cneajna’s shoulders and turned her.

It is important you listen Cneajna….  Bendis warned. Only after the girl had nodded did they continue walking.

This is ridiculous and cannot be happening; it must be a dream. I am human. Stregas and the like do not exist. Cneajna thought. In fact she couldn’t have fallen out the window; it was impossible to be brought back from the dead, only their Lord Jesus Christ could do such an amazing feat.

I know this takes some getting used to, and if you doubt it is at all real just listen with your new ears. Bendis waved a hand at the castle looming in the distance. Cneajna winced as she heard the sounds of battle coming from the castle. She wondered if Vlad even knew she was missing.

No. Cneajna came to a full stop, gripping a tree near her as her feet wanted to continue to walk with the woman.

No? Bendis repeated, looking at her.

No, I am not dead, not a Strega….You are not a Goddess and I am not going with you. I am going home right now. If and only if I decide you have risen me from the dead, I will be thankful, but not before that.

And how do you propose to figure it out? Bendis asked, amused.

When Radu, the bastard, sees me it will confirm it. Then I will take one of my husband’s swords and run him through myself! She exclaimed, fury filling her cheeks at the thought that a man she had welcomed into their home many times had stooped to such a low, as to get to his brother through her. Without waiting for a word from the other woman she fled, darting through the trees, dodging fallen branches with ease and leaping over stumps.

She ran, quickly, faster than she ever had before, it was exhilarating, within seconds she was back by the river. She stood and gazed up at the cliffs feeling strength pouring through her limbs. She wondered if she could climb up and enter through her bedroom window like nothing had happened.

I have let you run my Strega but now you will go no further,

Cneajna spun around, not even out of breath, but a little startled, go away.

I will not and you will come with me rather you like it or not. Bendis voice was no longer pleasant.

You can’t make me. She hated that she sounded like a petulant child.

Yes, I can, I am sorry but you cannot go home. In a few minutes Radu will tell Vlad he watched you jump from the window. He will find blood and pieces of your clothing and will assume your body washed away down river. He will grieve and remarry. Bendis spoke the truth, even though it was harsh.

Cneajna growled at the Goddess and turned prepared to dart across the river and up the jagged rocks, but her feet were stuck to the ground, she couldn’t move.

Cneajna closed her eyes and sat down heavily in the dirt, she began to sob in earnest. Despair welling up inside her, she thought about her husband and how they had married the year she turned 18. He had already been set in his ways, harsh and strict. She smiled thinking how handsome Vlad had been, a summer away from his 25th birthday. Her parents had thought it was a great honor that he asked for her hand. She loved him passionately and felt he returned the affection, even if he had not always shown it.

Thoughts and memories of their life began to flash behind her eye lids, but she stopped them, her head hurt and there was so much more to remember.

She couldn’t be dead, why did her brain feel so mixed up? She couldn’t think and the memories came in bits and pieces.

You died, Cneajna, I have been telling you that. The longer you are awake in this new life, the more of your old life will return, your mind will become clear, like nothing happened. The Goddess said, smiling again and it seemed to brighten the darkness, just a tiny bit more.

Will I be a witch now? Will I have magic powers? Cneajna felt foolish asking it, like a child. She looked up, tears blurring her vision; there was something important she couldn’t quite grasp and she rubbed her temples, a headache forming, something vital that she needed to remember, little shadows that wouldn’t come into focus.

Yes, but it will take some time and effort to learn them. Bendis explained, And you must feed on emotions to use them, power does not simply appear out of nowhere. It is a part of what you are now.

That doesn’t sound too horrible Cneajna said. She was trying hard to push past the prejudices drilled into her since birth: Stregas were evil and those who practiced magic were in league with the devil…She didn’t feel wicked so maybe she wasn’t and Bendis didn’t act like Satan, though she guessed it could have been a clever disguise.

If this was to be her life now, she should embrace it, though every cell in her body screamed to turn and scuttle up the cliff, take revenge and then fall back into her old life.

I assure you not even Lucifer would dare take on my form. I will never directly lie to you. I have no interest in tricking you into my service. You are already there.

Because you took me from death? How is that fair? I could be in heaven already. Cneajna said, a little angry, she stood shakily and followed Bendis.

No, you wouldn’t, but I will explain that later. More silence followed. Cneajna blinked quickly as she heard the flutter of wings nearby. She shouldn’t be able to hear those…She took in a deep breath and amazingly smelled not only the soil beneath her feet but each plant nearby.

Walk with me, and do not think of running away, I will stop you. You can never go back to your old life again, and I have the power to control you, don’t make me use it. Bendis speared her with a dark look.

How can I be happy? I am a murdered corpse with no home, family or money. Cneajna placed a fist to her mouth to contain the sob.

This can be a joyful life. Once every 100 years I create a Strega, I will introduce you to others of your kind as your powers mature. Bendis assured her. They stopped in front of a large dark cave.

But most importantly your main goal is to create Strigoi. Bendis lifted her hand and floating light appeared, the foxes ran forward, disappearing into the cave. Bendis took Cneajna’s hand and led her inside. Cneajna was not paying attention, the word Strigoi was known to her, a hint of fear crawled up her spine. Strigoi were spirits of the damned that came back to earth to torment the living, feeding off their blood.

That’s sinful. She whispered in the cool confines of the cave.

I am glad you think that, balance must be maintained and so humans must believe darkness lingers in the corners of the world. My Stregas create Strigoi and they help maintain the balance between good and evil.

So you want me to create beings to hurt people? Cneajna asked, she ripped her hand from Bendis and stood, refusing to budge; now she knew this had to be trickery from a dark power. Strigoi were not creatures to be created and upheld, they were to be feared. If a family member became a Strigoi you destroyed them and prayed God would save their soul.

Not exactly…Humans just need to think that. Bendis beckoned her on, They are immortal and eternally young, like you. They are just another bed time story to tell, a weapon that good may use against the wicked. In truth, Strigoi are normally harmless. Bendis walked a few steps before realizing she was not being followed.

Come on, we haven’t got all night and I don’t have time to constantly placate your fears. I know you think some sort of evil is behind all of this, but truly it is not. Everything is as it seems and I am not a harbinger of doom come to lead you, little lamb, astray.

With the Goddess’ words Cneajna felt foolish, she was confused and a little lost, plucking at everything around her. Time she grew up and accepted her fate, nodding, she followed again.

At some point the cavern changed, Cneajna realized it must be a gateway because she now stood in a huge room. Paintings of animals and half naked nymphs coated the walls while fur covered the floors. Silver light danced through the room and there was a table full of food surrounded by chairs and lounges draped with the finest fabric Cneajna had ever seen.

Sit and eat. Bendis offered, sliding into a chair and picking up a large mutton chop and taking a huge bite. Cneajna watched as Bendis chewed thoughtfully and then threw it on the floor for the foxes. She started forward and froze remembering a tale her nanny used to tell about fairies that lured people away and once you ate their food were forever damned to be kept in servitude. A strange noise jolted her out of her thoughts, eyes focused on Bendis, she realized the Goddess was laughing.

I am not a member of the Fae court, and since the battles began they have mostly disappeared from these woods any way. However I appreciate the amusement, now eat.

Cneajna went to join her and then stopped dead, my children, she muttered, a hand going to her chest as pain grew, deep and painful. It was as if a veil lifted in her mind and even more memories came swarming back, the most poignant was that she had children, ones she loved., I can’t stay here.

What? Bendis asked, eyes darkening at the change in her new Strega.

My children…What is going to happen to my children? Cneajna all but wailed it, You have to let me go, oh please! She begged.

Strega, quiet. I have said it before, you are not going anywhere, I am sorry, but you cannot return to them. Now, tell me about your children. Bendis consoled her, again motioning for her to sit and eat.

Cneajna sat and drank deeply from the goblet of wine the Goddess gave her. Her lower lip trembled as tears threatened to spill from her eyes.

I have sons, She drew in a straggled breath, two of them. Mihnea is only two and Mihail is five. Choking on a sob she took another drink, the alcohol warming in her stomach. Her eyes darted to the entrance, her skin crawling with the urge to get up and flee.

If you leave, the soldiers that are in these woods searching for you will find you. I will have no choice but to have them killed so they cannot spread rumors. Bendis words stilled her craving to run.

For a moment Cneajna didn’t care, every fiber of her being trembled with the need to be with her children, her family. She glared at the Goddess, hating her.

Bendis closed her eyes and leaned back, a few moments later they popped open and focused on Cneajna, what do you wish to know about your children, my Strega?

Will they be all right…? Both were at the castle with me. Her voice was small and scared.

Mihnea will live to the ripe age of 50 and shall follow in his father’s footsteps. Bendis slitted her eyes, but it is Mihail you really care about, tell me why.

He is….different, quiet and strange… Vlad, doesn’t care for him. But he is a smart, sweet boy and I worry with me gone…Vlad may do something… Cneajna admitted.

Mihail will only live to be 28 years old, I am sorry but I do not see his life turning out well. Bendis said.

You could be with him forever if you turn him into a Strigoi. Bendis offered the solution on a whim, I don’t normally recommend changing family members, however.

It wouldn’t damn his soul? Cneajna asked, hesitant to do something so dark to her eldest son.  

No, it might save him much pain and suffering, should you take him earlier than what I have foreseen. Bendis began to eat again, watching Cneajna.

You are sure? Cneajna felt like this was a too-good-to-be-true option.

I am….he will never have a normal life, children, an occupation…but he can be happy, even find love if he so chooses. Bendis, I am tired of this subject. They sat in silence for a few moments, Cneajna mourning her children and pondering the Goddess’ words.

You will need a new name. You can longer go by the one you have.

My mother called me Nea. She answered absent mindedly, a deep hole in her chest as she thought about her sons.

That is good; I must also relocate you outside of your husband’s rule. As long as you follow my rules and do your job for me I will take care that you want for nothing. Bendis said.

What does that mean?

You will have a home, money, a staff…anything you desire.

I desire to be home with my sons.

I am sorry, and she was, but I cannot do that. Bendis finished her food, noting that Nea did not eat anymore.

Finally the Goddess stood up, now for the main reason I chose you. She led her through another door, when it opened Nea found herself inside a small castle.

This is your new home, you are now in Transylvania.  It has already been staffed and has been awaiting your arrival. You must lay low the next few months before beginning to venture out.

How did you know I was going to die tonight? Nea asked, her family home had been in Transylvania, her father a Voivode, at least something would be familiar, though she hadn’t been back in ten years or so.

I can see into the future, not all things, but enough.

How long have you been waiting for me? It was disturbing, the thought she had been stalked by a Goddess, could she trust her? What if Bendis killed her for some personal gain? Again, thoughts that this was all a nightmare flittered through her mind.

Five years; had you not been destined to die young I would have grabbed you up after your natural demise. Bendis pondered her young Strega for a moment and draped an arm around her shoulder, Nea shivered in the Goddess’ embrace. It was unnatural to be this close to such power, something so inhuman.

Your doubts are understandable, in time you will trust me…and yourself…completely. Now what do you think of your new home? Her arm fell away and Nea relaxed.

Chapter 2

Nea looked around, it was smaller than what she was used to, but it still had the same cold and musty feel of the other castles she had lived in. At least it was clean and there was a huge fire already roaring in the main room. Nea could smell meat cooking in the kitchen and knowing she would not be alone made her happy. The fox pups, which seemed to shadow the Goddess, began to yip and ran off towards the kitchen.

Following Bendis up the stairs they came to a fork, the left hallway seemed to lead to bedrooms but the right led down a long hallway, she could see an arched entry way at the end.  It was lit with torches, there were no windows and it seemed to be the only place no one had cleaned: a layer of dust coated the rugs and cobwebs hung from the corners.

It’s nice, but I don’t understand, why do you even have this place? It’s too old to have been built just for me.  She grimaced as her feet left prints in the dust; naturally whatever she needed to be shown was down the grime covered hallway.

It was built over 100 years ago for a Strega who has since passed away, A shadow fell over her eyes, it now belongs to you.

Thank you, it is interesting, Nea walked under the arch and into a portrait gallery, a questioning look on her face.

Bendis took a deep breath and walked after her, You are descended from a very old line Nea. You were born a Bathory and that is no small deed. What you do not know is that your mother ran away because of the curse that lies with Bathory women.

My mother never mentioned her family.

I know, she had good reason. Bathory women are almost never mentioned in history because of the horrible things they did and most die young. The men hide their secrets well and keep the records of their wives, daughters and sisters buried. That ritual will change though and some of the evil that the women of your family have done will eventually come to the light.

Is that a bad thing? Nea ran a finger along the edge of the wall and blew away dust.

"Yes, I have foreseen that some of them will do wonderful things, in the future, if the curse is broken. However, with one rumor surfacing, one horrible tale making it into written record those women will have to

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