Raphael Sorel's seven years war

Summit meeting and downfall

In the evening, Raphael was still sitting on his bed, recalling last year's events. He could not stop thinking about all that happened. If he had not searched for this sword, nothing would have happened and he would still be happy with Amy. He would see her grow up; he would be there to watch over her, to protect her… Why did he have to go? Everything went so out of control…

He was still seeing the day he told Amy he would go on a quest… her sad waving… her sad gaze… The day he fought Nightmare, the day he almost died… Amy's tears when he came back and she saw him on his bed, thinking he would die… The night he became a vampire and killed his maids… Poor maids… Madeleine looked so miserable, fearing him… Poor Madeleine… He remembered it so clearly… the first time he killed and drained his maid's blood… When the body dropped down on the floor and he came back to his senses… And Françoise… her desperate attempt to flee… The despair he felt that night… And he thought about Amy too… Poor Amy… becoming vampire too… She had done nothing to deserve it… And the horrified face she had, seeing him beside his maid's corpse… yet she was still looking at him with affection… Before and after she learned she was a vampire too… Poor Amy…

The wandering after that, now knowing where to go… but trying all the time to reassure Amy while he himself didn't have a clue to what he should do… His repressed despair and fear… The shame he felt after he succumbed again to his bloodlust… All the people he attacked… All the minions he made to built a home for Amy… All the evil energy he created… All the slaughters he caused… That disgusting bloody trail he made that allowed Taki to easily follow him… How did it end up like that? How did he come to such an extremity? He thought he had more willpower than that… Damn Soul Edge… He did deserve death… with all those murders…

As to remind him even more, while he was lost in his thoughts, he suddenly heard yet another peasant insulting him by the window, distracting him from his thoughts.

-Hey Vampire! I'll be glad when you'll burn! You deserve it, monster!

He muttered a little exasperated:

-I know I am a monster… I know I deserve to burn… Please, stop reminding me…

But even if he estimated he deserved to be executed, he was afraid of his punishment.

-Why did I come back here? Why didn't we just flee when we saw the castle was invaded?

Raphael remembered that they wanted to take their most precious stuff back but now they would lose everything… But on the other side, if they had gone away, they would still be vampires… A part of him was happy to be human again but he now had to die for it and leave Amy alone… He wanted to live for Amy… He could not leave her…

Then as he was still in deep thoughts and regrets, some soldiers entered his bedroom and told him to follow them.

-You will meet the duke of Walachia. He wants to see you.

Raphael was surprised.

-Where? Here? In the castle?

-Yes. He awaits you in the salon.

For a short while, fear was visible in Raphael's newly blue eyes. He thought: The princess handed me to the duke! …I am doomed… All that remains now is to look dignified…

Raphael rose from his bed and stood up straight, not showing his fear.

-Very well. I shall follow you.

Raphael was nervous but he was also curious: It would be the first time he would really see this man from whom he stole his nearby lands, this man with whom he had been at war since he came here and who named him public enemy number one and swore his death…

Raphael arrived into the salon. A man was there, sitting in an armchair, waiting for him: Ștefan Ier Surdul, duke and prince of Walachia. He was dressed like the Walachian princes were, with some Ottoman influence in his costume wearing a long decorated tunic under his finely decorated long cape; he also had a moustache and was wearing the Ottoman style turban. The duke was now eating some cakes, accompanied by Princess Hildegard who was sitting in another armchair, still wearing a beautiful long dress with frills. Raphael thought with some bitterness that they were using his furniture, acting freely like the conqueror they were; they were even eating from his reserves… his favourite cakes… He truly felt he had lost his castle now… and it pained him…

But Raphael didn't show any of this and politely bowed to the two aristocrats waiting for him. He didn't want to disrespect the duke and anger him… He had to get his sympathy…

Unlike the duke who was sitting very comfortably in his armchair, Hilde was really nervous about this meeting. For the last few days, she had been constantly oscillating between handing Raphael over or freeing him even if she already knew what she would do in the end: What her duty requested of her.

Yet before, she thought she could convince the duke to free Raphael but now she was less certain… When Siegfried, Kilik and Talim came to ask for Raphael's freedom, she refused because she had to keep her word… None of them accused her of anything but she really felt like she was the heartless one. Even more now that she had doubts about her persuasion talents and the fate the duke reserved for Raphael. Kilik and Talim had left the castle a little disappointed about her decision. They had purified Raphael not really knowing what would happen to him but since he was now in the custody of the authorities, they could not do much. Felling helpless and not being able to do anything more than they did, they left.

But before they left, they tried to speak to Amy, trying to comfort her but Amy locked herself in her room and kept silent. She didn't want to speak to anyone. She remained obstinately silent and cold, driving everyone away from her. So even if she seemed to need help, Kilik and Talim didn't know how to reach her. They also had other things to do, the big task of purifying Ostrheinsburg awaited them and they had to do it fast so that the evil energy still left wouldn't get stronger and grow… The place could be dangerous as long as it was not completely purified. So they left for the cursed city of Ostrheinsburg.

The duke finished his cake then pointed Raphael while addressing Hilde.

-So this is the Vampire?

-He is vampire no more, your Highness. He has been healed just like the people he infected.

-Healed? You mean turned back human again?

-Yes.

The duke ordered Raphael to stand up. Raphael obeyed and looked at the duke a little embarrassed while the Walachian prince stared at him attentively from head to toes.

-So, he his now human… but he is still the one who killed my peasants and turned others into monsters…

Raphael thought those words didn't bode well for him. But he didn't dare say anything for now. He remained straight up while he listened to all the duke said hoping for Hilde's defence. He quickly glanced at her, trying to see her expression when Hilde spoke again:

-You promised an execution for the Vampire, but now it is a human standing on front of you, Sire.

The duke nodded and addressed Raphael.

-So, what happened? How did you become a vampire? And when?

-Because of Soul Edge. I got wounded by it…

Raphael began to tell his story to the duke, saying it was Nightmare who infected him but without mentioning that Siegfried was Nightmare at the time, in case the duke didn't know and since Siegfried was accompanying the princess, she could be unhappy if the duke knew and punished Siegfried too. Raphael had also noticed Hilde's sudden worried expression as he spoke about Nightmare. She seemed to appreciate Siegfried… But she didn't have to fear, Raphael didn't want to put the young German into trouble. They were not at war anymore. Raphael did remember Siegfried was trying to comfort him during the purification… In fact, even if they fought last time, Siegfried never seemed really hostile to him or Amy… After Raphael finished his tale that had a lot of details left behind which he didn't want to tell and that he didn't felt were important for the duke to know, the duke looked at him intensely.

-So you are no longer a vampire… but you killed many of my people…

-When he was a vampire… He was not himself… still stated Hilde.

-Yes, indeed… But the people suffered loss anyway… The fact that he is no longer a vampire doesn't make him less of a criminal and won't bring them back… The people who lost loved one will want to see him punished… No matter if the great responsible was Soul Edge or this Azure knight. They have done nothing in this country, it is the vampire Raphael Sorel that has plagued us. He came here and killed or transformed my people. He is the one who did wrong to my people. It is him that the peasants want. They want to see his head on a stake. They won't be satisfied with any other way. I must give the people what they wish. Even if he is a victim of Soul Edge…

-And what about justice?

-This is justice. I told you, he is the one who plagued the country.

-But like I told you before, he destroyed Nightmare! He saved me from death in Ostrheinsburg! He did good things! Heroic acts!

-Indeed… As a vampire. He was not already purified… So in a way, if he was conscious enough to realize what was good or bad then, he was also here in Walachia… So I think he may be held responsible for all his crimes…

Raphael thought that the duke seemed really eager to punish him… He was turning everything against him… Of course, Raphael had killed his first general and sent his army away and Amy had killed the second general and taken care of the army again. The duke really must not have appreciated these offences in addition to the peasant's attacks. But Raphael noticed that Hilde also seemed to be a bit frustrated by this. When she turned her gaze toward Raphael, she saw him looking at her like if he was saying: What did I tell you? Feeling embarrassed, Hilde quickly turned to the duke and spoke again.

-But the vampiric infection is only something that gives blood urges so when he didn't have them he may have acted heroically and when he had them he couldn't control it… At these times, he could not control what was good or bad… Now as a human he won't have those blood urges, so there is no need to condemn him… No need to punish him for purpose of protecting the people, it would only be for revenge purposes…

-He did built himself a staff of servants by taking many peasants as slaves… If it was not during his blood urges, he should have let them go… He should have felt remorse over what he did…

Raphael interrupted.

-Que vos Altesses me pardonnent… But when I was a vampire, I did think differently all the time, it was not just during my blood urges… I may have been more beastly with the urges but I did have strange ideas and no remorse when I was a vampire. Now I do realize and feel the horror of my crimes… Even when I seemed to think normally, I did thought slightly differently from a usual person. I do feel the change now that I am human again…

The duke then turned toward him.

-If you do realize the enormity of your crimes, then you will understand and be willing to submit to a fitting punishment…

-… I…

Raphael didn't know what to say anymore. He was angry at the duke for his obstinacy to execute him. Nothing he would say would change this stubborn man's mind… Not being able to hide the anger in his eyes, he lowered his head, thinking: You don't know how much I hate you… I know I deserve to be punished but right now, I would just like to jump on you and strangle you… He did felt he deserved something but he wanted to remain with Amy.

Yet a little bit of hope remained so he didn't do as he would have liked to and he let the princess speak again when she tried to.

-A fitting punishment you said, then the punishment must fit to an innocent. The Vampire has died in the fight. And he did, in a way, symbolically. So if you want to please your people, if they knew the Vampire is gone, that he died, they may be satisfied without seeing him die… He shall not be released, he doesn't exist anymore! Tell the peasants my army killed the Vampire. It would please those who have something against him and Raphael Sorel could go freely…

-Without any punishment? I will not let a criminal run free without any punishment! Even more, a criminal of this importance!

Raphael thought again that the rule of the actual duke was not going very well, so a public execution of the country's public enemy number one would probably help the prince get his popularity back… It was quite an occasion to take… and the duke seemed determined to take it…

Hilde said, a little frustrated:

-So, you really intend on punishing him… What about some prison time then? But still you have to remember that he is also a victim of Soul Edge. He would not have done this without the evil sword's influence… No matter if he had his mind or not…

-Another punishment? Hum… Some corporal punishment to please the people… Not a public execution, but a public punishment… like some lashing… or the rack… the boot… maybe even the breaking wheel…

As the duke was enumerating some torture devices, Raphael felt a cold chill down his spine. Even if he did fear the pain to some extend, he didn't really care about suffering but he did not want to get out from some torture device completely maimed and disabled… He had to still be able to take care of his daughter… Not become a burden for her… But all those torture devices would permanently injure his body… Well, maybe not the lashing… But he thought: You want to make me suffer? Just give me another purification…

Even if the ritual went well after he accepted it, he was still traumatized at the first part. Yet the ritual would now do no harm to him since he was human but he remembered it as something very painful. The duke seemed to know a lot about torture devices and was still listing some when Hilde interrupted:

-Please stop! I was talking about a less severe sentence… like one or two months in prison…

-That is not enough my dear friend… But indeed, I shall spare you the listing… But even then, if I use a non-mortal punishment, would it please the crowd? They want to see him dead… They fear him… So the torture devices may not please them… even less your lenient sentence… And his crime may be even greater than we may think… This here may be more of a political scheme than it looks, my dear Hildegarde… This man is French… The late king of France, Henry III was friend with Petru Cercel, the next to last ruler of Walachia, he was the one who helped him overthrow Mihnea II Turcitul to take the throne…

The duke then addressed Raphael.

-Does your presence here have anything to do with this? You were not sent by the new king of France because the late king's friend lost his throne and the king of France would want to put some of his friend or puppet again? Isn't it some political plot? I think the Sorels are an old French aristocratic family… Am I right? So you may be working for the king…

The rule of the Walachian throne was very changing; the actual duke governed the place only mostly since Raphael came. Before, it was another who ruled from 1577 to 1583 before he was overthrown by the French king's friend then took back his throne from 1585 to 1591 before he was removed by the Turks for the actual ruler's benefice.

Raphael knew some of those quarrels but did not really care, not wanting to preoccupy himself with petty power hungry wars… Anyway, he was the enemy of whoever ruled Walachia. He didn't care who killed or drove away who…

-I was a French aristocrat indeed but I have nothing to do with some political plot… I did not care with whom King Henry III was friend. And who would I put on the throne? Me? I have no suitable candidate to present… Why would I do that for the king of France? Even if I am French, I have never met king Henry IV and I have nothing to do with any political scheme. I swear on my honour.

-Well then, the king of France may not have sent his agitator but in a way, he sent us his rubbish…

Raphael's face changed at the word. Rubbish? How dare he? Raphael lowered his head, insulted by what the duke said but not wanting to show it while the duke continued to speak.

-You should have plagued France with your vampirism… Why did you come here?

-I made my first victims in France… and I did not intend to plague your country particularly… I… just wandered around… since I did not know where to go. It was an unfortunate twist of fate that made me end here.

-So you don't know why you choose that castle in particular?

-Non. Well, we stumbled upon it and it was abandoned…

-You know why it was abandoned?

-Non.

-You really have to be a stranger to not know about the last owner of the castle… By the way, I love how you decorated the place… It has the French touch… I like it…

The duke then explained the story of the castle to Raphael.

-In the last century, the castle belonged to Vlad III Basarab, or Vlad Tepes the Impaler, a cruel warlord renowned for his taste for blood. He loved to see blood. And impaled a lot of his adversaries and people. He made tens of thousands victims among them. His castle often was surrounded by impaled peoples dying in front of his windows for him to see while he ate. The too many slaughters made around his castle drove people to leave it when he was killed and it gained an evil renown. The lord of the place was also named Vlad Draculea, the small dragon because of his family's adherence to the knightly order of the dragon. But some nicknamed him Dracula or only Drac. And you know what Drac means in Romanian?

-Yes. Devil.

-And you know what other reputation he had?

Raphael shook his head in negation. The duke continued:

-He was a vampire.

Raphael stared at the duke with surprise. He lived in a castle that had belonged to a vampire and he didn't even know it! The duke continued:

-So if it was not political reasons, I wonder if you had not been lured in this place by some evil force… I even first wondered if the one responsible for the vampire affliction was Vlad Dracul, who would have come back but when I learned of your identity, I then wondered if you would have been infected by Vlad Dracul yourself…

Raphael said nothing, still stunned by the duke's assertions. The duke continued:

-But since you said it was Soul Edge, then I am relieved that Vlad Dracul hasn't come back…

The duke made a pause before he continued.

-Now I think with all we learned, we should rest for a while. I am tired of my trip, so I would like to rest now. And you must probably be tired too my dear Hildegarde, so why don't we enjoy the evening? I would like to visit the castle… We shall talk about the prisoner tomorrow.

Not knowing already what to do with him, the duke sent Raphael in prison until he decided. The guards led Raphael in a small cell in the dungeon. As soon as the door closed on him, Raphael, dignified but not exactly proud attitude changed. He looked at the door with a distress look then looked at the cell: the walls were crudely sculpted like if the prison was part of the caves under the castle. Raphael had not often been here. He visited it the first time he inspected the place then maybe one or two more time… The prisons were not very attracting… But now he had the occasion to analyse it more in detail. As long as there was light… The sun was setting outside so it would soon become dark… The metal door was locked and seemed very well preserved; it seemed hard to bust down. There was a small window a little higher where the sun was coming from. Using the ruggedness in the rocky wall, Raphael climbed to the window and grabbed the bars. He tried to shake them, measuring their solidity. They seemed very firm and strong. From the window, Raphael still had a very nice view, with the mountain and the setting sun… and the lightning in the distance… There was a thunderstorm not far away… Soon the storm will come here… Raphael always appreciated thunderstorms but now he was not in the mood to look at it. He noticed that the window was on the cliff side of his castle, a very sheer cliff, seemingly impossible to escalate if he succeeded in getting out by the window.

But as he let go of the bars he cut himself on the rude metal. Landing down, he looked at his bleeding hand: red blood… He stared at it and began to lick it. Suddenly he stopped.

-What am I doing? I am not a vampire anymore! As it becomes a habit? Must be… I am human now… I just did it so often; it became instinctive to do it maybe… Anyway what do I care? They'll burn the rest of the Vampire that may remain… when they will execute me…

He sat in a corner and thought about what happened. He was scared for Amy and he was also scared for him. He put his head on his knees and wondered what to do again as thunder began to rumble.

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