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Thursday, 2 April 2015

Publishing again - it's been a long time.

Well, I've finally submitted the latest Felicia and Robin book for publishing, and also a new Regency, hopefully the first of a series [called the Brandon Scandals series], 'A Hasty Proposal' which had an earlier working title of 'The Unexpected Bride', a name already in use.... There's an extracts from it Here and also see below for the opening. [Keep scrolling down after going to the link, there's an article about the illuminations first and an extract showing how I used them in my book following]

Felicia and Robin have their first 'braided novel' in which short stories follow on one from another.  It's a segue between 'Hatreds Heretics and Histories' and 'The Colour of Murder' which will follow.  Felicia and Robin become involved in the dastardly doings of simple country folk in North Norfolk [finishing with travelling through Ipswich and then Winchester on their way to Henry VIII's court.]

So here's the opening of the first story of Midsummer Mysteries:



1 Murder at the Bounds


        It was no very pleasant thing to happen upon a dead body when beating the bounds.
        That the body was that of an old man with his hose about his ankles and a look of pure shock upon his face did not tend to soften the experience in any way.

        My grandfather’s household was beating the bounds under the nominal guidance of his chaplain, Toby Marjoram, whom I could not call Father Toby without wanting to giggle at the absurdity of it.  His quite ridiculously blonde hair with its concomitantly invisible eyebrows and lashes gave him the permanent air of a surprised choirboy.  His habit of blushing whenever he came within six feet of a female over the age of about ten years did not add to his dignity.  I had been forced to forbid Pernel from playing with him, for she developed a most naughty fascination with trying to make him blush, though she was younger than the age generally that females drove him to roseate incoherence.
        All the children had been keen to go along to beat the bounds, largely because Adam had a wager with Pernel and Emma that Bennett the stable boy would end up being beaten over at least one stone as the naughtiest boy on the whole estate.  Bennett was some twelve or thirteen summers with a reputation for madcap scrapes that made our three look calm; and for fighting.  He was not, to his chagrin, old enough to join the rowdy quaffing of the older hands, whose sole interest in beating the bounds  - as soon as the prayers at each stone was done – was to sink a tankard of ale at one draught.
        I broke my Robin of excessive drinking – save when he was low over something – when I was just a little girl, still his apprentice.
        The object of this drinking game was to complete the bounds in a state that might loosely be accorded the description ‘conscious’;  few enough remembered their own names at the end, let alone where they might be or where the boundary was.

        The body, however, did have something of a sobering effect on our tipsy bounds beaters; and Kit Scullion dropped his handbell with a dull clatter.
        “Oh d-dear,” said Master Marjoram.
        He was occasionally given to hopelessly inadequate remarks.
        I think that was his most inadequate to date.
        Grandfather pushed his way forward.
        He did not have to push very hard.  Drunk they might be, ignore the baron they would not.
        “’Tis John Weaver,” he said. “He has the linen loom out at the cottage over the hill.”
        “Ha!  Yew reckon, Sir Godfrey, that him be so tired out from serving his young wife hid keeled over just from gittin’ out hisn pizzle tu ‘grow a rose’?” jested one wag.
        I have no idea why the euphemism ‘grow a rose’ should be so common; but that it is so is shown by the number of towns with a ‘Rose Lane’ that have at least some time been open sewers. 
        There was ribald laughter at the wag’s jesting remark.
        “If he be wed, somebody should tell his wife,” I said repressively.  “Mistress Jermyn, will you go to her?  Take her to the Hall – we shall put his body in the chapel and lay it out decently.  No need for her to see it thus undignified.”
        Grace Jermyn bobbed me a curtsey and set off.
        Grandfather scowled at Toby.
        “Take this rabble around,” he said.  “Rafe, Mark, stay to assist us with the body.”
        It had rained the night before; the ground was soft.
        There were two puzzling depressions before the stone – as though someone had kneeled there.  They did not seem right,
        “Could he have fallen to his knees there and then….no, he is sprawled as though falling from a kneeling position here” I said “And here is the mark where his knees hit, one slightly in front of the other – and here his hands; and they skidded, see the mark in the mud and grass.  I wager he was dead afore he hit the ground.”
        “I concur,” said Robin. “Which is why I am bothered that the top of his hose here have gathered mud and leaf mould and such as though someone had tried to pull up his stocks after he was on the ground.”
        We exchanged looks.
        This was an anomaly.
        In our work outside of our profession as artists, as agents for Tom Wolsey, we had become even more adept at noting anomalies than we already were as trained observers.
        There was a golden thread about three feet up, caught in a thorn bush.  It looked and felt like hair.
        I put it in my belt pouch.
        “What a horrid thing on such a pretty day!”  I said, crossly.
        “Never mind, my dearest dear,” said Robin cheerfully. “We did not know him.”
        The early summer’s sunshine gleamed in his golden hair and his eyes reflected the sky’s blue; and his smile was soft.
        Corpses despite he looked quite contented.  
        He had not long completed successful repairs to the damage effected by a most spiteful girl to the best painting he has ever done.  It shows me as the Queen of Sheba ‘black but comely’ as the Song of Songs says, and more beautiful than I had ever realised I could be, from the love for him that shone in my painted eyes. And he had substantially finished the painting of Pernel and Emma in a bluebell wood that would take a proud place in our own house, wherever we ended up living.
        How I looked forward to becoming his wife!

        Rafe and Mark were shifting the body to move it when Robin bent over and peered.
        “Hello,” he said in a strange voice.
        I looked where he pointed.
        There appeared to be a trickle still red and sticky blood from the man’s rear.
        “Emerods?” I suggested.
        It is a painful condition, I am told, and they can bleed. If one burst suddenly, painfully, it might, I suppose, lead to death from pain and shock in so old a man.
“Maybe,” said Robin.  “I think we should examine him in the chapel.  When you have him there, one of you men ride to inform Prioress Elizabeth at St Mary’s.
Grandfather raised an eyebrow.
“Should not it be the priest of Holy Trinity that be informed?”  he asked.
He was a great stickler for form.
“Lady Elizabeth has worked with us before,” I said.  “And she has more balls than most priests I know, save Tom Wolsey.  And mayhap Father Eusebius,” I added, having reluctantly rather liked the acid representative of the Bishop of Norwich.
Robin chuckled.
“I’m not sure, dear shrewling, if the Lady Elizabeth would appreciate that as a compliment.”
“Knowing Lady Elizabeth, she’d take it in the spirit in which it was meant,” I said. “She was very calm when we examined the deceased Dean, and very sensible.  Pity those drunken oafs have walked all across here to have a good peer.  We might have got more idea of what happened here by the marks on the ground.”

We returned to the chapel to do a thorough examination of the body.



Meanwhile meet Edward Brandon, who would be most put out to be called scandalous: 

Chapter 1

Edward Brandon shut the door with unnecessary vigour, stopping short of actually slamming it. 
“She need not think that she can trifle with my affections like that!” he snarled.  “I – by Jove, I’ll marry the first woman who shows me a kindness without expectation of a reward!”
His groom wisely said nothing as Edward swung himself up into his phaeton and drove away, his bad mood strictly controlled so as not to upset the horses, but his face like thunder.
Miss Amelia Hazelgrove had just made it clear to her erstwhile suitor that she had no interest in a mere ‘Mr’ who no longer might be considered to have the expectation of inheriting a tidy little barony.  He was probably no longer his uncle’s heir, since his new aunt-by-marriage was rumoured to be in an interesting condition, his uncle having remarried relatively recently.
Edward, interrupted in the middle of a proposal to Miss Hazelgrove by her refusal, had stared, and upon being informed as to that damsel’s reasons had demanded to know whether he meant anything to her but a means of social elevation.  The Beauty had tossed her charmingly arranged head of black curls, pouted her exquisite and sultry lips, and informed him that the whole point of marriage was for the participants to be of use to each other.  Heartbreak and anger warred in Edward’s breast; anger won.

Edward found himself driving out towards Hampstead, and realised that he was going to visit his aunt, the Honourable Letitia Grey.  Aunt Letty was always soothing. Edward laughed cynically.  He was about to renege on the vow he had made, as he could scarcely marry his aunt.  However, the vow had been made, and relatives did not, of course count.  He adjusted his muffler against the chill of the March winds, now he had cooled down sufficiently from his anger to notice the surroundings.  Edward gave the horses their head as he came out of London and into the country, after passing the toll-house at The Spaniard Inn.  It was not far to his aunt’s house from here, but he wanted the speed to wash through him, wash away some of the numb anger and agony.  He was aware of his groom hanging on grimly and lifted a hand half in apology to him.  Spencer was a good man and loyal, and was doubtless already working out that his master had been turned down, as Edward was not generally given to black moods or excessive speed, unless engaged in a race.  And Edward preferred those races organised somewhere like a park, with circuits, rather than upon the public highway where one might discommode ordinary travellers or working carters.
He started to slow, preparing to turn off the highway onto the road to his aunt’s house, just before Finchley. He slowed his team further with consummate skill just before he turned, as the herd of pigs swept round the bend. The youth in charge of them touched his forelock and as Edward indicated with his whip that he wished to turn off, skilfully shooed his herd to the other side of the road to accommodate Edward’s passage. The forelock was fully pulled and a grin adorned the bucolic youth’s face as Edward tossed a coin to him, from a selection he kept on the dash.  Edward liked to be able to be ready to throw the correct change to tollgate keepers, and to have vails ready in case of need, without fumbling in his pocket, and had had a small box attached to the dash, to stop loose coins being readily thrown off by the motion of the carriage.  He drove at a relatively sedate pace up to his aunt’s pleasant Queen Anne house, larger than a cottage, but more modest than might be suggested by his aunt’s comfortable income from her late husband’s skilful investments.


Mrs.  Grey’s butler admitted him, taking his coat and murmuring that Mrs.  Grey was abroad presently, but that there was a fire in the parlour.  Edward was about to go through when he heard an exclamation, and noticed that his aunt’s quiet young companion had come into the panelled hall, having been arranging flowers in the scullery.  She put down the vase filled with ivy and a few windblown narcissi, height given by the white flowers of dogwood, and a few sprays of the yellow dogwood too.
“Why, Mr. Brandon, you look most unwell!” she said.  “I will fetch you a nice posset right away; do please go and get warm by the fire, Aunt Letty is out presently, but will return soon.”
Edward opened his mouth to say that he would prefer a whisky, but found himself bundled into a chair, and presently provided with a beverage which appeared to be generously endowed with alcohol.  He sipped the sweet mixture appreciatively.
“Thank you, Miss, er, Renfield, I am not ill,” he said.  “Though by Jove!  It would be worth being ill for your posset.”
“Gentlemen need building up,” said Miss Renfield, demurely.  “Excuse me, but you are, or were, quite white, and looked most unlike yourself.”
“I had a shock,” said Edward; and found himself telling her all about it.  Elizabeth Renfield was a good listener; no wonder Aunt Letty found her soothing to have around, thought Edward.  As he recalled she was a relative in some degree – which meant she was a distant relative of his too, he supposed – to his mother’s family. Miss Renfield was looking most concerned, which was very flattering.
“Dear me!” she said.  “How very cold blooded Miss Hazelgrove sounds!  Of course, I am fortunate to have a good position with Aunt Letty, and she has told me I need not worry about the future, which is generous of her, so I am in a position to look scornfully on mercenary motives, and to marry purely for social advance seems quite as mercenary as marrying for money. And to be honest, if one is content, one is rich indeed, don’t you think?”
“Miss Renfield, I confess I’ve never met anyone content before, so I have no idea,” said Edward, “but it’s a refreshing way to consider relative wealth. I suspect that in some ways you may be better off than many a duke with a fortune.”
“I probably am,” said Beth Renfield.  “Are you feeling better for having talked about it?”
“Much,” said Edward, “and thank you.  “Though I am still resolved to marry… Miss Renfield!” he said, suddenly struck by a thought, “It occurs to me that you are the first lady I have spoken to who has done me a kindness without considering any reward!”
Beth blushed.
“I suppose I am,” she said, “but then, of course, I didn’t think of it like that, because you needed someone to take care of you.”
“Then, by Jove, you shall take care of me!” said Edward.  “Miss Renfield, will you do me the honour of being my wife?”
Beth blushed even darker red.
“Are you sure you mean that?” she said.
“I do mean it,” said Edward.  “Unless your heart is already engaged by another?”
She shook her head, looking down at her hands. She wished in passing that her hands were not so short and inelegant.
“My heart belongs to nobody else,” she said.
Beth, in fact, had been in love with Edward for as long as she could remember after entering Mrs.  Grey’s household, straight out of school.  This should have been a fairytale ending, and yet, he was only marrying her because that wretched Hazelgrove girl had turned him down, and she was available, and kind to him.  Beth wished fervently that she could be unkind to Miss Hazelgrove.
“Then say you will?” said Edward.
“I should refuse such a precipitate offer and beg you to sleep on it,” said Beth, who would not tie him to her on such terms.
“I will not change my mind,” said Edward. 
“Then providing you are still of the same mind in the morning, and delay any notice of engagement until you are quite certain, I agree,” said Beth, recklessly.  She might regret a marriage to someone she loved to distraction, and who had been no more than ordinarily polite to her up until now, and scarcely knew she existed, but she was going to have him!
 

Saturday, 31 January 2015

More from Melinda de Ross - Vlad Dracul to the fore in 'Mirage Beyond Flames'

Melinda has written a book featuring heavily the legend of Vlad Dracul, or rather, Vlad Tepes, known as the Impaler, a national hero in Romania for his defence of the country against Hungary.  His habits of impaling criminals ensured his notoriety, but those who were pure in heart had, it was said, nothing to fear from him.  A story is told in which a merchant was robbed, and he took his woes to the Impaler, who recovered the man's money and secretly added more coins.  He asked the merchant to count them. 
"There is more here than I lost," said the merchant.
"Because you have told me that, you may keep it," said The Impaler.  "Had you not told me, I should have impaled you beside the robber."
A rather pointed lesson in avoiding fraud, but I suspect Romania was a very peaceful place under his reign.... Over to Melinda! 



 Gerard Leon and Linda Coriola fight for the same cause. The attractive, noble, dedicated French doctor and the beautiful, sensitive Italian sculptress both donate their time and money to Hope – a clinic for children’s cancer research and treatment.
From the moment they meet, even the air between them crackles with intense attraction. But her past makes it difficult for Gerard to understand her scars and battle with her demons.
In search of a cure for cancer and armed with an innovative treatment themselves, they leave for Transylvania, that enigmatic land hidden in the heart of the Carpathians.
There they get lost and have a bizarre  experience in the Hoia-Baciu forest, nicknamed The Romanian Bermuda Triangle due to all the inexplicable paranormal phenomena happening in its depths.
But no one believes them, because they don’t have any proof of said experience. Or do they?...
*Mirage Beyond Flames is the sister-story of Dante’s Amulet.
 
Excerpt: 



“You seem tired. Is there something wrong?” Linda asked, feeling her cheeks grow warm, afraid he could read her reactions to his presence.
Gerard sighed, dragging his fingers through his hair.
“I don’t know if you could put it quite like that, but we do have an unpredictable situation. Looks like I have to take some time off as soon as possible and leave for Romania.”
“Romania? Dracula’s land?” she exclaimed, shocked. “What the hell do you want to go there for?”
He laughed indulgently, indicating the mountain of papers spread on his desk.
“Well, I have a friend—actually he was a good friend of my father’s—who lives there now. He’s a doctor too. In the past years, he collaborated with another Romanian doctor and they devised a treatment made from a plant called hellebore. It seems to give good results in certain types of cancer. True, the results differ from case to case and the treatment is not effective on every patient, or in every form of the disease. Like the snake venom treatment, the best results are obtained in incipient stages, if the treatments can be applied locally. Especially in the beginnings of skin cancer.”
“And he wants you to go there to share the treatment formula with you?” she asked.
“Yes. In exchange, I prepared copies of all my notes, observations and research to share with him.”
Linda approached the desk, intrigued, and inspected the scattered papers.
“Chemical formulas, observations, reports…Here is all your work related to the serum made from snake venom?”
“Just about anything that could be put on paper.”
“And do you trust this person?”
“Absolutely.”
She continued studying the notes on the desk, while he sat back in his chair, studying her.
She directed her gaze to him.
“You could make a fortune with this thing. Why give it for free to that guy?”
He gave her a long look, appearing offended by her implication.
“I’m not interested in money and fame, Linda. I became a doctor because the most important thing to me is healing, bringing comfort to my patients, not profiting from their tragedy,” he said, his expression intense and earnest. “Those who do that aren’t true descendants of Hippocrates, they’re just crooks. All my work is measured in the number of people I help, not in stacks of money.”
Something glowed warmly into her entire being. All at once, she felt her heart was lighter, ready to fly toward the nameless fulfillment that she longed for.
“You are a noble man,” she said truthfully, with a trace of admiration. “I respect that very much.”
“I’m a man like any other,” he replied, reclining in his chair. “I have flaws and qualities, nothing special compared to others. Still, I like to think I have a better sense of humor than most,” he added, smiling. “Please, sit down. I feel uncomfortable sitting while you stand. Do you want something to drink?”
“No, thanks.”
She sat in the chair facing his desk.
After a few moments of silence he asked, “Dracula’s land?”
She started laughing, and so did he. When their laughter subsided she said, “That’s all I’ve heard about Romania.”
“That’s about all the rest of the world has heard too. In fact, Jean-Paul tells me it’s a very beautiful country, with extraordinary landscapes and an admirable history. There are numerous predictions and speculations that there, in the heart of the Carpathians, is the physical projection of Shambala—the spiritual center of the Earth. You know, the more or less mythical land of the initiates who hold the balance of the world.”
“Really?” she asked, wide-eyed.
“Yes. I told you, it’s an interesting country, extremely controversial. It intrigued me ever since I listened to Jean’s stories. Speaking of history, do you know how all this Dracula story started?”
“I have no idea. You realize that an intelligent person doesn’t believe in vampires and other such nonsense. But I suppose in every legend there’s a grain of truth.”
Gerard smiled, linking his hands on his desk.
“Actually, there was once in Romania a ruler called Vlad Tepes—which means Vlad the Impaler. He was called so because he literally impaled all thieves, criminals and all those who broke the law, as well as his enemies. They say people were afraid of him to such an extent that, when he put a golden cup on the edge of a fountain, nobody dared to take it. When it was gone, they all knew he was no longer ruling.”
Linda shuddered.
“So much cruelty! I think that man was a monster!”
“Granted, those punishing methods weren’t too gentle, but we have to take into consideration that in those times, around fifteenth century, cruelty wasn’t unusual. Not only at royal courts, but worldwide. Besides, the most horribly punished were the Ottomans—a people who, from the beginnings of history, tried to subjugate the entirety of Europe and beyond, having a personal ambition to conquer Romania.”
“Hmm, what an odd thing. I didn’t know all of this, but it didn’t even occur to me to read about it,” she confessed meditatively. “So, all these atrocious torture methods have created the image of Bram Stocker’s vampire monster?”
“This, along with other bits and pieces of elements gathered from here and there, or invented. For example, Vlad’s father, called Vlad Dracul—which means The Devil—was part of the Dragon’s Order. Their symbol was a creature resembling a dragon from Oriental Mythology, with claws and fangs. This kind of distorted legends created false myths, which mystify history. In reality, Romanians consider Vlad Tepes one of their country’s best rulers and a character they can be proud of. If it weren’t for him and a few other Romanian rulers, all European states would be Turkish colonies now.”
“Talking with you is really fascinating! I always learn new things,” she remarked, impressed by all his knowledge.
He returned her smile and the fatigue shadows on his face seemed to dissipate slowly.
“I could tell you a lot more interesting things tonight, at dinner.”

And there's a link to the book HERE


Monday, 19 January 2015

The Illuminations to celebrate Napoleon’s surrender in 1814



 I have seen several bloggers and writers who have made the assumption that ‘illuminations’ referred to fireworks, but this is not actually the case.  The earliest reference to illuminations and fireworks that I could find was in 1717, in a letter from Fox, reported in the newspaper, viz:

Yesterday being the Prince’s Birth-Day, the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the Nobility and Gentry, with the Foreign Ambassadors in town, went to St James’s, to congratulate his Royal Highness; and in the Cities of Westminster and London, there was Bon-fires, Fireworks and Illuminations in an extraordinary manner in the Evening.

So what were Illuminations? As far as I can ascertain, it became custom some time probably in the late seventeenth century to celebrate nationally important events – and presumably local ones, in each town – by displaying a candle or lantern in as many windows of a house as might be afforded by the householder, showing it all lit up as a sign of approval.  As time went on, and probably in the same spirit in which one today might trace the competition in a suburban street by the increase in the level of decoration of lace curtains as one walks down the street, illuminations became in many cases more than just candles or lanterns in windows.  Houses ‘festooned’ must have had whole rows of lamps strung up outside, coloured glass doing its bit to add to the display, and by 1814 ‘transparencies’ are described, which appear to have been painted glass with wording or pictures thus painted, and lit from behind.  The Gas Company surpassed all other illuminations with their display, though it is worth noting that even gas lighting left pools of darkness, and the uncertain lighting in the shadows left by the illuminations give a sinister setting in my novel 'The Hasty Betrothal' for skulduggery to be planned. 

This is the opening of the four-column description of the illuminations of the 11th, 12th and 13th of April 1814:



And this is an excerpt from my book now probably to be titled ‘The Hasty Betrothal’, in which the heroine enjoys the illuminations.

As it happened, Edward was also taking Letty and Beth to see the illuminations; he chose to take them to Somerset House, where the decorations were quite sumptuous, and some took the part of lit inscriptions, with the Latin tag along the front,
Europa Instaurata, Auspice Britanniae;
Tyrannide subversa, Vindice Liberatis.
“I may have little Latin, but even I can puzzle that out,” said Beth.  “Europe restored, under the protection of Britain, tyranny overthrown, the vindication of liberty.”
“Near enough,” said Edward.  “Europe set up under the protection of Britain, Tyranny overthrown, the champion freed, as I make it.”
“I like the pictures better,” said Beth, pointing to another building that displayed an illuminated painted transparency caricature of Bonaparte, tumbling from the mount of Republicanism into the arms of a demon.  “Why does it say ‘To Hell-bay’?”
“No idea,” said Edward, “unless it’s a forced pun on the name of the island he is to be exiled to, Elba.”
“It’s not a good pun if so,” said Beth, disapprovingly. “But an amusing idea to have him tumble from hubris.”
They wandered the streets, exclaiming at the ingenuity of some of the illuminations, expressions of loyalty to the King and Regent, as well as praising Wellington, expressions of support to the House of Bourbon, and a myriad of coloured lamps as well as transparencies.
Edward was insistent that the ladies should repair with him to Fleet Street.
“The Knight’s Gas Company have a most ingenious display,” he told them.
Beth gasped as she saw what the gas company had managed, a tree made of laurel leaves and festooned with blossoms made with gas lights, and throwing all other illuminations into the shade with the unparalleled brightness of the burning gas.
“Magnificent!” breathed Beth.
“Thought you’d like that,” said Edward.  “One day, all London’s streets will be illumined with gas lighting, and it will be a much safer place to be.”
“Indeed, yes!” said Beth.  “Why, I am sometimes afraid at night of turning my foot betwixt door and carriage, without having to stop to consider the possibility of footpads taking advantage of the confusion as people seek their carriages outside a house where a ball has been held, for once outside the pool of the lights at the entrance, the darkness appears the more Stygian by contrast.  I cannot help wondering whether one of the reasons to continue a ball until dawn is to permit safer passage home for the guests, once the crepuscular gloom as the sun rises has given way to morning.”
“I wouldn’t say you were wrong at that,” said Edward.  “Worth braving the cold of the evening?”
“Eminently so,” said Beth…

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Guest Post: Countess Bathory – Between legend and fact

My guest post today is from the lovely Melinda De Ross, a new author.  Whilst her romance is in a contemporary setting, she has needed to get under the skin of the Renaissance character, Madame Erzebet Bathory. She has been kind enough to share that research for my blog page! 

Handing over to Melinda and a bit about her story first!  


 


In the legendary Transylvania, a castle belonging to Countess Erzsébet Báthory is discovered. Cameraman Hunter Cole and broadcast journalist Serena Scott arrive to make a documentary about the discovery, and the sinister Hungarian noblewoman, known as the most prolific female serial killer in history. 

The two Americans could cope with roughing it in a fifteenth-century castle, with no modern amenities. They can even cope with each other, despite their initial mutual dislike for one another, which gradually turns into a smoldering attraction. 

But when two girls are tortured and killed in Báthory copycat style, the nearby village is shaken to the core. In terror, they wonder who will be next...

the only known portrait of the notorious countess...


Ever since I’ve heard about Erzsébet Báthory, I was fascinated by this sinister character who, even in times when cruelty was far from unusual, still managed to stand out. I did a lot of research on what was fact and what was legend about The Blood Countess, and decided to weave a romance which has as a starting point The Countess and a fictional castle belonging to her. This is what I have gathered from my research.

Erzsébet Báthory (1560-1614) is a known historical figure and was a Hungarian countess, also known as Elizabeth Báthory, The Blood Countess or Countess Dracula. She has been labeled the most prolific serial killer in history, being responsible for the torture and murder of hundreds of young girls. The exact number of her victims is unknown, but is estimated at six hundred and fifty. It is speculated that she kept a diary with the names of all her victims, but if such a document exists, it has never been made public.
She was born on the 7th of August 1560 into a very powerful family of nobility in the Kingdom of Hungary. When she was very young, she learned Latin, German and Greek. When she became a teenager, she already was one of the most educated women of her time. At fifteen she married Ferenc Nádasdy, the son of a baron, in what was a political arrangement within the circles of the aristocracy. Nádasdy's wedding gift to Báthory was his home, Csejte Castle, situated in the Little Carpathians.
In 1578, Nádasdy became the chief commander of several Hungarian troops, leading them to war against the Ottomans. Since then, Erzsébet’s husband was mostly away from home, leaving the management of business affairs and the estates to his wife. That role usually included responsibility for the Hungarian and Slovak people, even providing medical care. For the duration of the Long War, Erzsébet was charged with the defense of her husband's estates, which lay on the route to Vienna. The threat was significant, for the village of Csejte had previously been plundered by the Ottomans.
Báthory and Nádasdy didn’t have any children for the first ten years of their marriage. In 1585, Erzsébet gave birth to a daughter, Anna, who died some time after 1605. After that, she had another two daughters and two sons. There were rumors that she had her first daughter when she was only thirteen and became impregnated by a servant. It is said she was sent away to have the child. Her fiancé—for Nádasdy wasn’t yet her husband— had the boy castrated, then thrown to a pack of dogs.
Between 1602 and 1604, after rumors of Báthory's atrocities had spread throughout the kingdom, Lutheran minister István Magyari made complaints against her, both publicly and at the court in Vienna. The Hungarian authorities took some time to respond to Magyari's complaints. Finally, in 1610, King Mathias II assigned György Thurzó, the Palatine of Hungary, to investigate. Thurzó ordered two notaries to collect evidence in March 1610. In 1610 and 1611, the notaries collected testimonies from more than three hundred witnesses. The trial records include the testimonies of the four defendants—Báthory and three of her servants—as well as thirteen witnesses. Priests, noblemen and commoners were questioned. Witnesses included the castellan and other personnel of Sárvár castle.
According to all testimonies, Báthory's initial victims were the adolescent daughters of local peasants, many of whom were lured to Csejte by offers of well-paid work as maidservants in the castle. Later, she is said to have begun to kill daughters of the lesser gentry, who were sent to her gynaeceum by their parents to learn courtly etiquette. Abductions were said to have occurred as well. The atrocities described most consistently included severe beatings, burning or mutilation of hands, biting the flesh off the faces, arms and other body parts, freezing or starving to death. The collaborators in court also mentioned the use of needles. Some witnesses named relatives who died while at the gynaeceum. Others reported having seen traces of torture on dead bodies, some of which were buried in graveyards, and others in unmarked locations. Two witnesses actually saw The Countess torture and kill young servant girls. According to the testimony of the defendants, Erzsébet Báthory tortured and killed her victims not only at Csejte, but also on her other properties.
If Báthory hadn’t come from such an important family, she would have most certainly been tortured and burned alive. There was no doubt about her guilt, because at the time of her arrest several dead and dying girls were found in the castle. Because of her family’s influence, there was a closed-door trial, where over three hundred witnesses testified. The exact number of her victims remains unknown, but even though the official count based upon evidence of the tortured bodies is around eighty, in a second part of the trial, a newly discovered register was entered as evidence, suggesting there could have been as many as six hundred and fifty victims. Báthory was imprisoned in Čachtice Castle. She was kept bricked in a set of rooms, with only small slits left open for ventilation and the passing through of food. She remained there for four years, until her death. On August 24th 1614, a guard looked through one of the slots and observed Erzsébet Báthory lying dead face-down on the floor. Since there were several plates of food untouched, the actual date of death is unknown. She was buried in the church of Csejte, but due to the villagers' uproar over having ‘The Tigress of Csejte’ buried in their cemetery, her body was moved to her birth home at Ecsed, where it was interred at the Báthory family crypt.
 

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A horribly fascinating woman, thanks Melinda!  those of you who are familiar with my FanFiction writing might recall a certain Erzebet Cerny at Durmstrang, and now you know why I chose her first name, as I rarely use names without a lot of thought!