Mara, Vampire Queen Edit

The biggest omission in the records of Vlad Dracula's life is his first wife. She remains nameless in history books even though she was the most important person in his life - and in his death. Her name was Mara.

Mara was a Transylvanian princess who, at the tender age of eleven, became an innocent victim of the Turkish-Hungarian conflict. Her father sent her as a gift to the Sultan, under whose sordid gaze she was placed in his harem to serve as a noble-born pleasure girl when she came of age.

At the Ottoman court, Mara met a handsome Wallachian prince, not much older than her, and likewise an unwilling guest of the Sultan. Through their shared plight and upbringing they bonded, became close friends and a great support to each other. Eventually, their friendship blossomed into love - the forbidden, impossible love of the young and obstinate.

When Vlad's father died, the Sultan sent him back to Wallachia as a puppet ruler. In a move that was sure to infuriate the Sultan, Mara escaped with him. Witnessed by God and close friends the two lovers were married, and ascended the throne together. The Sultan, embarrassed and insulted by the insolence of the boy-prince, sent his forces to Wallachia for retribution, forcing the young couple to flee.

For several years they stayed in exile, secretly travelling the countryside of Transylvania and Moldavia, rallying support among friends and his late father's allies. In 1456, they returned and reclaimed the throne, backed by a strong army and other, more powerful forces. With Mara at his side, Vlad ruled gloriously for years, much loved by the people for his fierce courage and his uncompromising defence of their lands. The Sultan, however, refused to concede and his aggression never ceased.

Unsuccessful in breaking down Vlad's armies, the Sultan made a deal with a dark, ancient force that also had designs on the land. A plan was devised to attack his one great weakness: the love for his wife.

Vlad sent Mara to a castle in the inaccessible Custurii mountains in Transylvania, hoping it would keep her out of harm's way. Instead, it cornered her, placed her in the very mouth of danger. Mara was dreadfully lonely in the cold castle. Constantly worried about her husband, increasingly prone to fear and doubt, she had little to occupy her time. Helpless and abandoned, she prayed for his return.

One evening, Mara received an unlikely visit. The woman, who introduced herself as Lilith, had such presence and beauty that the solitudinous princess couldn't but bask in her lurid glow. She welcomed her despite her husband's orders not to accept strangers into the castle. Lilith spoke softly and seductively to Mara, and some rare aspect of her voice reverberated deep within her mind. Through the power of ancient words, Lilith twined her way into the young princess's innermost life.

Lilith became Mara's most trusted confidante. They talked about love, life, and the Carpathian Mountains. Seamlessly, through the subtlest of hints, the older woman instilled a gnawing doubt in the young girl. Eventually, the doubt grew into seething mistrust. What kind of princess lived this way, imprisoned in a place far away from her friends and her husband? Vlad had surely grown tired of her, and sent her here not to protect her, but to free himself.

Their favourite subjects were love and the act of love. Lilith showed Mara things she had never heard of before, never imagined, and told the inexperienced princess about the secret desires of men. Had she been attentive to his deepest, darkest urges? Had she ever really satisfied him? Had he ever really given her the chance, or had he just discarded her and gone elsewhere for cheap satisfaction? And then, the coup de grace, Lilith snuck into Mara's dreams and showed her how little it takes to seduce a man.

Mara, having lost her faith, was convinced her husband no longer cared for her. Every night she dreamt of Vlad enveloped by hordes of specious women. She went mad with rage and jealousy, which slowly hardened into sorrow. Unconsolable, she fell limply into the older woman's arms.

Lilith abused the girl's vulnerability, nudged her to the brink of final, unretractable despair, before luring her back with promises of hope. She could teach her the art of seduction, and grant her the power to win him back. Then, in a dramatic gesture, she cut her own wrist and convinced the young princess to drink her blood so they would forever be like sisters.

Mara was made a vampire that night. Lilith had indeed granted her immense powers, but also condemned her to eternal life, an immortal cursed with the insatiable hunger for blood.

When Vlad returned to the castle, Mara revealed her transformation and tempted him with her new talents. She begged for him to join her. They would be together, she whispered, for eternity. Vlad soon realised what had happened - that he had failed to protect her - and was heartbroken. He knew he had to kill her, that it was his sworn duty to do so, but when he looked at her his will faltered. Too late to save his love and unable to kill the demon she had become, he fled the castle haunted by her promise of an eternal embrace.

The rejection devastated her and all the love and longing for Vlad collapsed into black, immeasurable hatred. Mara turned to Lilith - her sister in blood, her creator, her long lost mother.

But Lilith had achieved what she wanted. She had broken Vlad, and had no more use for his naive wife. She callously left the new-turned vampire to her own devices.

Abandoned once again, Mara flew into a murderous rampage. She tore Transylvania apart at the seams, acting on every one of her new, violent impulses - desperately trying to get Lilith's attention in whatever way she could. She killed people left and right, mothered new vampires bound to her command. She held decadent and opulent banquets with her ravenous vampire court amid all the carnage and butchery. The destruction of the oldest village in Bacas County was entirely her doing, earning her the everlasting enmity of the few surviving Romany.

In these first years, she was fearless; believing herself unmatched, she felt sure that all her actions as Vampire Queen would impress her maker. For a while, Mara was in ultimate control, but things changed when, in 1476, Vlad returned, supported by the Eight and the Romany. He was powerful - too powerful. By this time, the resentment towards her husband had aspired to even more fathomless bounds.

He fought his way to the castle, determined to rid the world of her evil, but at the moment of glory again he hesitated. She could sense his weakness. She cried and fell to her knees in front of him, begging him for forgiveness - and waited for the moment to pounce, to drink his blood and force him to join her. To turn the champion of the Eight would surely win her Lilith's everlasting affections once more!

Vlad lowered his sword and fell to his knees, his will and his heart broken as he heard her desperate plea. Mara was triumphant. Finally, the moment of vengeance! She opened her arms to his defeat. But, seemingly to spite her, Vlad fell on his own sword rather than accept her embrace.

Foiled once again, Mara had lost her best chance of arousing the attention of her maker - a shame she did not easily accept. She screamed in agony and frustration, vowing to one day win Lilith's undying approval.

With Vlad's allies hot on her tracks and determined to destroy her once and for all, Mara fled Transylvania, travelling across Eastern Europe for centuries like a plague, a feral menace to the normal and secret worlds alike. She learned temperance in order to stay a step ahead of her pursuers, yet her craving to become one of the great powers of the secret world would always leave a trail of disaster in her wake. Misery was her only legacy.

Mara had been taught well. Just as Lilith had used Mara, Mara herself used and exploited her surroundings. When the occultists of the Soviet Red Hand moved into the Eastern Bloc, she was quick to sell them her own kind for hybrid research, imagining they would build her a vigorous and subservient new army. She gladly supported their expansion into Bacas County.

but the Red Hand's power was fleeting, and the army abandoned the hastily-closed research facilities. Mara was left with nothing, again.

Or so she thought. Years after the violent tantrums, years enough for her to have forgotten her crazed desires, Lilith finally came for her, finally offered a place at her side. All Mara had to do was help her recover an ancient prize from Transylvanian soil.

Mara could barely fall over herself fast enough to agree, summoning all her bastard children from throughout the continent to run riot in a fool's revolution. Behind their smokescreen, she returned to Bacas County for the first time in lifetimes, breaking the seals on the Red Hand facility and releasing its homicidal inmates, then taking up residence in the very castle where she had been abandoned by Vlad Dracula.

There she remains, compulsively trying to please her insatiable mother and thinking back to a time - centuries ago - when she was happy in the arms of the man she hates.