The date is June 17, 1462. It’s been one month since the army of Sultan Mehmed II set out from Constantinople, and although they’re nearing their objective at last, their losses have been great. Their enemy’s control of the Danube has forced them to march over land, so the sun has dried their throats and melted their armour. Now even Mehmed is losing heart and his fondest hope is simply for an end to this ordeal. His voice, when he speaks at all now, is bereft of its old zeal for victory. Even Radu the Handsome, who leads the Turkish army, is beginning to fear the dark rumours to be true - this place, the land of the Dragon, is cursed…
The Doctor emerges from the TARDIS, followed by Peri and Erimem. They’re immediately horrified by their surroundings and Peri starts to gag from the smell. They find themselves in the remains of what was once a small village, but all the buildings have been devastated by a series of fires and virtually nothing has been left untouched. Erimem even finds a shelter filled with animals who’ve been slaughtered. Someone has obviously set out to deliberately destroy the village and Peri is afraid it might be a plague site, burned down to quarantine the area. The Doctor thinks this is unlikely as they’ve seen no human bodies, so it looks like everyone had time to evacuate first. From the distance they hear a faint cry as someone calls for help but the sight that awaits them on the other side of a ruined cowshed is even more terrifying. The entire area is filled with people literally impaled on stakes and left to die. Peri moves off to be sick as the Doctor and Erimem approach one man who is still alive, but in incredible pain. The Doctor takes the man’s hand to comfort him, and although Erimem points out that he must have been a criminal to be punished in such a way, the Doctor insists that he still deserves their compassion. The man tells them their homes and livestock were burned down by the Son of the Dragon…a man also known as Dracula!
Later, the Doctor rejoins his companions and tells them his work is done and the man is no longer suffering. Erimem is pleased, but Peri doesn’t think there’s anything good about what they’ve witnessed. She believes they must be in Transylvania, but the Doctor says it’s more likely the neighbouring principality of Wallachia, which in Peri’s time is part of Romania, and they must be in the latter half of the 15th century. Suddenly they hear the sound of horses and then a group of soldiers charges towards them. The Doctor has no idea which side the soldiers are on - or indeed what side they should be on - so they must decide quickly whether to stand or run. Peri wants to get away, but Erimem suggests talking to them. There’s no time to flip a coin, so the Doctor decides for them. They race off as fast as they can, with the soldiers on horseback only seconds behind them...
It soon becomes obvious that they can’t reach the TARDIS in time, but the Doctor hopes they can lose the soldiers by moving through what’s left of the buildings. Unfortunately the Doctor fails to see a trap in the road before them and he falls straight into a man-made pit. Fortunately it’s only his pride that’s dented. He tries to climb out, but can’t get a foothold and the walls are too muddy. Moments later the soldiers catch up with them and their leader dismounts and approaches them. He realises they’re not Dracula’s servants as he first believed, and is particularly impressed when Erimem tells him she is the former Pharoah of Egypt. He introduces himself as Radu the Handsome and orders him men to help the Doctor get out of the pit. Peri is keen for them to leave before whoever did this to the village comes back, but Radu tells her she need fear the tyrant Prince no longer as they‘re now under the protection of the Sultan‘s army.
The Doctor and his friends ride back with Radu and his soldiers to their nearby camp. Peri points out that every step is taking them further away from the TARDIS, but the Doctor is sure they can find their way back. His main concern is Erimem, who has ridden ahead and has dropped out of sight. Radu had specifically requested Erimem’s company and it would have been churlish, not to mention potentially dangerous, to refuse him. Although Peri mocks Radu the Handsome for his large ego, the Doctor knows that she thinks his name is appropriate. However, she hasn’t forgotten that the village, in fact this whole country, is supposed to be under attack by Count Dracula! The Doctor corrects her and says the man is Prince Vlad Dracula III, voivode of Wallachia, and ruler of his province. Although they’re not talking about fangs, bats or walking down the sides of castle walls, the real version of Dracula is actually worse than his namesake and was commonly known as Vlad the Impaler. What happened to the peasants back in the village was one of Vlad’s favourite punishments and they were probably sympathisers or collaborators with his enemy. Peri is horrified that he could do such a thing to his own people, but more worringly it means they’re now travelling with Vlad’s enemies! They’re marching with the Turkish army, led by Sultan Mehmed II, or Mehmed the Conqueror, who are invading this land. It’s getting dark so the Doctor thinks they’ll be stopping to set up camp soon. He encourages Peri to speed up so they can rejoin the others.
In the next village, Radu brings the group to a halt and orders the soldiers to check the farm buildings for signs of life, then begin pitching the tents for the night. When he assists Erimem down from her mount, she asks if she can wait by the village well for her companions to join her. Radu leaves to arrange for defences to be set up around the camp and for the horses to be fed and watered. She’s been very impressed by their host and considers his manners to be every bit as handsome as his features. She draws some water from the well and prepares to drink a toast to him, but suddenly Radu races back and knocks the bucket from her hands. He tells her the water has been poisoned and if she’d drunk any then within hours her tongue would have turned black and she’d begin coughing up blood. He tells her that Dracula doesn’t give up his land gracefully. He’s burned down his own crops, butchered his own livestock and poisoned the water to stop his enemies making use of them. He insists Erimem remains with them as this blighted land is too dangerous for her to wander around alone, but she reminds him that she and Peri have the Doctor as company. Radu thinks the Doctor is their jester and will offer poor protection against Dracula‘s army of darkness. Erimem laughs at his misunderstanding and assures him the Doctor is nobody’s fool. Radu tells her all three of them are welcome in his camp and are free to share their food and water, but he warns her the Sultan will expect such hospitality to be repaid in kind, saying the Sultan‘s spirit may be healed by the company of two beautiful women. Erimem tells him they have travelled a long way today and will be tired, so Radu leaves to arrange a meal and a place for them to sleep, agreeing not to discuss the matter of their payment to the Sultan until the morning. He also promises her that despite being in the land of their enemy, the camp is well fortified against intruders and she can rest safe in the knowledge that she’ll be guarded very closely.
Later, the Doctor and Peri finish their meal in the tent assigned to them. Peri doesn’t even want to speculate what kind of meat they’ve been eating - if indeed it was meat. She asks the Doctor to tell her about the real Dracula, but not a potted history, just an anecdote or two. The Doctor says that several contemporary witnesses told of a thief who broke into Dracula’s home one night, pursued by the captain of the guard. Vlad spared the life of the thief, but executed the captain because he was a ‘gentleman’ and should have known better than to enter a home uninvited. Peri believes this story may have led to the theory that vampires can’t enter someone’s house without being granted permission, which is why they’re always so charming to begin with. The Doctor thinks it’s fascinating how truth becomes legend and how fact can be corrupted by fiction. He explains that the word ‘Dracula’ itself means ‘the Son of the Dragon’. Prince Vlad inherited his father’s position in the Order of the Dragon, a Christian society, which means he’s perfectly happy wearing a cross about his neck. To his people, Dracula is a hero who protects them from the Turks. His enemies obviously see him differently and they’re the ones who first portrayed him as a blood-drinking monster. Bram Stoker simply borrowed the name and reputation. The Doctor thinks it would be enlightening to meet the man himself and see the truth through their own eyes, but Peri will be quite happy living without that particular piece of enlightenment. She points out that they’ve landed in the middle of a war against one of the most violent and sadistic men in history, so she suggests they make their excuses and get out of here. The Doctor hears someone moving around outside and Peri begins to worry that vampires might exist for real. He surprises her by confirming that they do exist - with fangs, bats and everything - and he’s met them before! The door flap to the tent opens up and Peri screams…but it’s just Erimem who’s come to say that she thinks they should leave too! Radu has been the perfect gentleman, but she fears the Sultan has other ideas and he wants her and Peri to join his harem as concubines, with the Doctor as his ‘fool‘. For once, everyone is in total agreement, but the Doctor wonders how they’re going to sneak past 50-60,000 armed soldiers. Erimem assures him most of them are asleep, exhausted by the long march, so if they wait until the moon sets they should be able to slip away unnoticed. She must return to her tent before anyone notices she’s gone, so they arrange to meet them by Radu’s tent at midnight. Their biggest worry is what might be waiting for them once they get outside the protection of the camp.
Later that night, Radu emerges from his tent and calls out the Doctor’s name, saying there’s no point trying to hide in the darkness as he’s already seen him. Sheepishly, the Doctor emerges from the shadows and assures Radu he wasn’t hiding, he just didn’t want to disturb him. Radu draws his sword. As the Doctor is a stranger in a hostile land, Radu persuaded the Sultan to grant him protection - but now he finds their guest skulking around outside his tent. Radu knows their enemy has many eyes and ears at his command, but if he ever catches one of his spies, he’ll behead them. Fortunately, Radu doesn’t really believe the Doctor is a spy and he laughs at the Doctor’s lamentable attempt to hide, saying a child of five could have done better. The Doctor knows Radu is a favourite of the Sultan’s, despite being neither Turk nor Muslim, but now that victory seems to be eluding him, he must feel he’s in a precarious situation. Radu now realises the Doctor isn’t the fool he first took him for and he admits that only two weeks ago, defeat seemed unthinkable. The Doctor argues that no case - no matter how just they may think it is - is worth all this carnage, but especially if it all stems from Sultan Mehmed‘s ego. Radu refuses to leave the land of his birth in the hands of the tyrant Vlad and when he looks around and sees the damage this war had wrought, he too is almost starting to believe that their enemy is indeed some sort of demon, a devil in human form. The Doctor knows Radu isn’t telling the truth - he knows Vlad is as human as he is because the two of them are brothers! Radu is horrified that the Doctor knows his secret, but before he can question him further, they’re interrupted by a commotion. The camp is under attack from Dracula’s raiders and, for a moment, he wonders whether the Doctor has been deliberately distracting him. As he races off to protect the Sultan, the Doctor realises that once again he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As the sound of the advancing invaders grows ever closer, a young girl races into Peri’s tent and rouses her from her sleep. She introduces herself as Ayfer and warns her that Kazýklý Bey has come to mutilate and defile their bodies. Peri is unfamiliar with the name and Ayfer explains that the Impaler Prince is here in this camp. Peri is horrified and is worried about the Doctor and Erimem, but Ayfer tells her she must look after herself. Their attacker delights in the slaughter of women and babies, and if he sees Peri, he will gouge out her eyes and drive a stake through her heart. Ayfer is convinced there’s nothing they can do to protect themselves against Dracula, but Peri refuses to back down. She gets her new friend to help her pull free a large tent pole - at least now they have a weapon to defend themselves with.
Elsewhere in the woods surrounding the camp, Erimem meets up with the Doctor. They’re both worried about Peri, but if she’s wise, she’ll have taken cover until the fighting is over. The Doctor says this particular battle is going to rage all night and will claim thousands of lives - Dracula’s night attack on the Turkish camp is an infamous date in history. He knows Erimem is capable of navigating by the stars, so he asks her to head south-west as he’ll have more chance of finding Peri once he knows Erimem is safe. She surprises the Doctor by drawing a sword which she took from a fallen Turk and he warns her their greatest asset is that their clothing is neither Wallachian nor Turkish. There are 70,000 soldiers surrounding them and the moment she swings her scimitar, she’ll be declaring an allegiance to the Turks and will be a legitimate target. Erimem refuses to listen, but promises she will only fight in self defence. Reluctantly she agrees to leave the area, but only on condition that the Doctor finds Peri and brings her back.
Peri and Ayfer are having difficult getting away from the village as Dracula’s forces seem to be everywhere. All around them, Ayfer’s people are dying, despite the fact that they outnumber their enemies. Ayfer reminds her that the Turks are still tired from the march and Kazýklý Bey has the power of darkness on his side. Suddenly a burning arrow hits their tent and the whole thing starts going up in flames! They have no choice now but to enter the battlefield, so Peri picks up the tent pole and prepares to defend them both.
An exhausted Radu catches up with the Doctor and tells him he was too late to reach the Sultan who had already fled from the camp and with any luck will be on the other side of the mountain by now. Radu is angry with himself as he should have remained at the Sultan’s side. He thinks Dracula must be insane to attack them in the heart of their own camp, but the Doctor points out that if Mehmed had been killed in his bed then this war would already be over. Dracula’s legend can only grow through what’s happened this night. Radu tries to offer him a spare sword, but the Doctor refuses to take it. Just then, they’re spotted by two of the enemy soldiers and it looks like the Doctor’s luck has just run out. Reluctantly, he’s forced to accept Radu’s offer and the two of them prepare to defend themselves against their attackers…
As one of the invading warriors struggles to calm his horse, he suddenly finds himself under attack from one of the Turks. Against all the codes of conduct, the Turk brings his sword to bear on the warrior’s horse, causing the man and his beast to come crashing to the ground. As the Turk moves in to end the warrior’s life, Erimem races out from the nearby woods and leaps onto his back. The soldier struggles to throw her off, but the distraction is long enough for the fallen warrior to draw his sword and kill the man with a swift blow. He thanks Erimem for saving his life and she explains that the soldier had an unfair advantage and she couldn’t stand by and let him be killed. He commends her bravery, but in retrospect she thinks she was simply foolhardy. He realises she’s not a Turkish woman as they would never allow her to dress so immodestly. Erimem helps him climb out from under the fallen horse and introduces herself. She explains that she’s not a Christian and in fact was once considered a god herself. The man assumes she was a prisoner of the Turks and he‘s impressed by the courage she’s shown and believes it deserves reward. He offers to take her away with him and when she declines the offer, he is offended. He realises she doesn’t know who he is, so he introduces himself as Prince Vlad III, son of Vlad the Great and sovereign and ruler of Ungro-Wallachia and the duchies of Amlas and Fagaras. Ever since his father was murdered, he has gone under another name - he is Dracula!
The following morning, the Doctor sits with a wounded soldier and encourages him to breathe deeply and try to stay awake. The man has lost a lot of blood and believes he should have died in battle, but the Doctor points out that he can now live to fight another day. Radu approaches and tries to persuade the Doctor to leave the man alone as there are other men dying all over the battlefield and he can’t save them all. Even if he can save this man, his wounds are too great and he’ll never fight again. The man himself doesn’t wish to live and pleads with them to kill him and while the Doctor tries to arrange for some water to be brought over, Radu draws his sword and kills the man. He argues that they don’t have enough water for the living, let alone the dying. The man’s blood was poisoned and he would have only lasted a few days in torment. The Doctor sadly accepts that Radu is right and has done the man a mercy. Radu was impressed by how the Doctor helped force their attackers into retreat the night before - by all accounts, even Dracula himself fled after being wounded, so they’ve snatched a small victory from what looked like certain defeat. The Doctor says he and his friends only came here to explore and to learn, and when that didn’t work out they just wanted to go home. He holds himself responsible for his friend’s safety and he believes he’s failed spectacularly. Radu tells him he may know the whereabouts of Erimem. One of his men saw her being taken from the battle on horseback…by Dracula! Radu has finally tracked down Sultan Mehmed and persuaded him they should march on to Dracula’s capital Târgovişte, so perhaps they may still be in time to save Erimem. Of Peri there has been no word, and Ragu believes there is no hope for her - the burial pits are already filling with bodies whose names they will never remember. The Doctor refuses to accept that and says that until he has positive proof that she’s dead, he will continue looking for her. He agrees to accompany Radu’s army and says he’s prepared to fight the Son of the Dragon himself if he has to because he has no intention of leaving either one of his friends behind…
Throughout the night, Peri has been travelling across country with other survivors from the battle. She‘s still armed with her tent pole and warns anyone who approaches her to stay away. One of the men assures her he means no harm and just wants to help, so Peri apologies for her reaction. Although she thought these people she was among the refugees, he tells her they’re all part of the glorious army of Prince Vlad III. The man introduces himself as John Dobrin and says he’s a peasant turned soldier from Poienari in the north. . Peri tells him she got separated from her friend Ayfer and Dobrin thinks she’s probably up in the monastery with the other women and children. She’s also worried about her other friend who she saw riding away the night before with one of the soldiers. She hadn’t realise they’d travelled so far but through the trees she can see the domes of the churches from the city of Târgovişte. Dobrin tells her that’s where their work will really begin - the Turks have advanced as far as they can and soon the battle will begin for the capital itself.
Erimem wakes up and finds herself in an unfamiliar bedroom with a woman standing over her. The woman, Maria, has come to see whether the stories were true - that her master had brought back a handsome prize from his crusade. Erimem assures her she is no ‘prize’, but Maria mocks her then becomes hostile and accuses her of being a Turkish tramp who turned her master’s head while on the battlefield. An angry shout from the door makes Maria jump. Her master, Dracula, insists that Erimem is his guest and Maria will afford her every courtesy during her stay here. He orders her to fetch breakfast and the terrified woman bows subserviently and leaves. Once they’re alone, Dracula tells Erimem he will punish the woman if she hurt her, but he also notices that she flinches whenever he comes near and wonders what stories she’s heard about him. Has she heard that he will boil her alive, or dismember her, or drink her blood? He assures her this is all lies told by jealous men or mothers who wish to frighten their children. Erimem asks if she is free to leave the palace and he says she is, so long as he can spare the guards to escort her. He urges her not to expose herself to the risk. He’s confident the war will be won within days and then the freedom of his country will be hers. He accepts that the Turkish army has superior numbers, but he regards them as inferior people, used only to dealing with spineless leaders who can easily be bullied. This time they face a warrior, a man prepared to defend his faith with steel and sinew. Erimem warns him that she’s seen the man who leads the Turks and he too was a man of great determination.
Radu tells the Doctor there’s been another sighting of his companion, but his spies in Târgovişte report that Erimem has been made welcome at the Prince’s palace. The Doctor is surprised that he has people helping him from within Dracula’s ranks, but Radu says the Prince has more enemies than he realises. Dracula‘s army is made up of peasants and gypsies because the boyars, the noblemen of Wallachia, won’t fight for him. Unfortunately they also fear him, so they won’t stand against him either. On the first Easter of Dracula’s reign, he invited 200 boyars to his banqueting hall and when the feast was over they found his soldiers waiting for them. The older men and their families were slaughtered and the able-bodied were enslaved. Radu believes Turkish rule would be more just and even though he spent most of his life as their prisoner, he was treated more kindly by the previous Sultan Murad II than by his own family. Both he and Vlad were raised in the Murad’s court alongside his own son, Mehmed, and the old Sultan actively supported Radu and allowed him to rise to an important post within his army. Radu believes the Turks are a tolerant and cultured people and they even allowed him to practice his Christian faith. The Doctor suggests that Radu explain all this to the boyars and get their support to remove his brother from the throne by diplomacy rather than by force, but Radu knows Vlad will never give up what he’s gained without a fight. The Doctor remembers that the previous Sultan supported Vlad‘s claim to the Wallachian throne, despite Radu’s warning that his brother would betray them. It’s his view that war is inevitable.
On the outskirts of Târgovişte, Dobrin organises the construction of a barricade and the mounting of cannons around the perimeter to protect the city from the Turks. Peri joins him and he asks whether she found her friend, but things have turned out to be a little more complicated than she’d expected. Erimem is with Prince Vlad after he kidnapped her and took her to his palace. She’s heard stories about what he does to people who only so much as look sideways at him and she’s worried about her. Dobrin says there’s nothing he can do to help and thinks she should be more worried about herself. He can see the Prince’s carriage approaching as he begins conducting an inspection of the fortifications. He warns Peri that if the Prince catches her standing idle while there’s so much work to be done, he’ll have her put to the stake! He passes her a rope quickly as the carriage passes by them. To her surprise, Peri catches a glimpse of Erimem inside the carriage and starts calling out her name. The carriage continued its tour and Peri runs after it, despite Dobrin’s words of warning.
Inside the carriage, Erimem hears Peri calling and urges Vlad to stop and go back for her. She explains that Peri is her servant and says she must have followed them here from the Turkish camp. Vlad insists that he already has enough servants and all the while Erimem is a guest in his palace they will attend to all her needs too. He gives Erimem permission to write to her friend and tell her she has no further need of her help, but that she may remain in the city by the Prince’s permission. He suggests Peri find herself a husband and do her duty by him instead. If she agrees, he may even forgive her impertinence at shouting out at his carriage…
Radu and the Doctor examine the results of Dracula’s work with shock. Radu may be related to Vlad, but that makes him no less a monster and the Doctor is forced to agree. There are 20,000 bodies - men, women and children - stretching in all directions as far as the eye can see. This is the Forest of the Impaled, a scene that will haunt the history books for generations. The Doctor explains that Vlad marched the victims here, a full thirty leagues from his capital, then slaughtered them and left them mounted here for the ravens. Radu wonders how they can fight an enemy who is capable of such things, but the Doctor knows there’s another way. He tells Radu that history hasn’t finished with him yet…
In her bedroom, Erimem begins writing a letter to Peri, hoping that her words are good enough to convey her meaning. She assures her friend that Prince Vlad is a generous host who allows her the freedom to roam his palace and its grounds, even his private garden. As she tells Peri not to worry for her, the parchment is suddenly snatched from her hand by a furious Maria. The woman accuses Erimem of writing secret messages in code to the Sultan’s supporters and threatens to show the letter to her master. Erimem assures her it’s not a code, but the English language which Peri has been teaching her. She tells Maria she has no business interfering in her affairs, but the woman simply mocks her for her pretty face and fine words. She wonders whether her master will have the same affection for her once her face has a few scars on it. She lunges forward and attacks Erimem…
Upon seeing what’s been done to his own people, the Sultan’s courage finally fails him. He knows what his decision will cost him, but he has no choice. Had he not ordered a withdrawal, many of his soldiers would have fled the ranks anyway. The unthinkable has come to pass - Dracula had finally defeated them, and he’d done so not by force of arms, but by striking terror into the hearts of the bravest of men. And so they are to return to Radu’s adoptive homeland. For Radu, it is almost a relief. The Doctor, whose words had given him much comfort in recent days, seems to have disappeared and Radu is starting to feel alone and exposed.
Maria promises her master that she will be good from now on, but he strikes her viciously across the face and knocks her to the ground. Erimem protests at the woman’s treatment, but Dracula insists that the punishment of his servants be left to him. He demands that Maria explain herself and the trembling woman accuses Erimem of confessing to being a spy and was caught writing in secret code to betray Dracula’s plans to their enemies. Erimem denies confessing to any such thing and reminds Dracula that he gave her permission to write to her friend Peri. When he learns that Maria attacked Erimem, he is disappointed. Maria begs for mercy and again makes wild accusations against Erimem, so Dracula orders her to be silent. He knows the woman has not only betrayed him, but is now lying to his face. Maria tries another approach and tells her master that she’s pregnant with his child, an heir to the throne. Dracula is stunned for a moment, then orders her to be taken downstairs. Guards grab the woman and drag her kicking and screaming out of the room. Once they’re alone, Erimem begs Dracula not to do anything rash. She admits that Maria is jealous, but says her loyalty to him is without question. Angry with Erimem for presuming to question his decision, Dracula strikes her across the face too. He tells her he’s only prepared to forgive so much, even for a face as pretty as hers. If she pushes him too far, she will share the fate of all who displease him.
The Doctor is outside the walls of Târgovişte, having a very frustrating argument with a guard who is refusing him entry. He tries to explain that he’s visiting some friends, but the guard insists that the city is closed to strangers. The Doctor points out that he’s clearly alone and has laid down his sword as a gesture, but it’s not enough. He tries a different approach and formally requests sanctuary from the Turks. When that fails too, he searches his pocket for something to “grease the wheels”, but the soldier becomes angry at the suggestion that his loyalty can be bought. The Doctor tries once again to convince the guard that his friend Erimem is a guest of the Prince and that he is her personal physician and advisor. When he learns this, the guard relents. He asks another guard, Krench, to take over his duties and offers to take the Doctor straight to the palace. The Doctor assures the guard he can find his own way, but the guard insists, adding that few who are shown to the palace ever come out again…
John Dobrin knocks on the Prince’s door and is greeted warmly by Dracula, who regards him as an old friend. He’s surprised to see him as he expected Dobrin and his brothers would be well on the way to Poienari by now. The peasant nervously asks for permission to speak freely, which is readily granted as the Prince has always held them to be loyal to the House of Dracula. Dobrin says he has heard that Dracula has a houseguest, a noble woman by the name of Erimem. He tells him she has a friend called Peri who has been speaking out against the Prince, despite Dobrin’s attempts to silence her and instruct her in her duties. He says Peri is angry and won’t accept that Erimem now belongs to him. In fact, she has sworn to take Erimem back from him, even if it means forcing her way into the palace.
At that very moment, Peri is sneaking into the Prince’s personal garden in search of her friend, scraping both her knees and nearly losing a heel as she drags herself over the wall. She hears a polite cough from nearby and finds herself confronted by guard. She realises she’s going to have to explain her presence here and pretends to be a garden designer who’s been asked by the Prince to take a look around to see if she can spruce things up a bit. The guard isn’t fooled for a second and draws his sword…
Erimem makes her way up the steps to the top of the watchtower, where Dracula is waiting for her. He explains that this is his own addition to the palace built by his father. She wonders whether he’s summoned her here to watch the Turks approach, but he promises her the Turks have already left and he doubts that they’ll ever invade this land again in his lifetime. The war is over and with God and right on his side, he believes he’s won a resounding victory. Erimem is delighted and hopes this means it’s now safe for her to leave the city and return to her travels. Dracula says she may leave if that is her wish, but he’d hoped she might come to appreciate the view from this window. He’s spent many hours gazing out across his beautiful country and down into his courtyard. Erimem looks down and is horrified to see the bodies of his enemies displayed in a gruesome manner. When she objects, he says tells her this warning has all but eradicated crime in Wallachia. However, his constant vigilance is still required to prevent the weed from returning. He tells her that only an hour ago an intruder scaled the walls of this very palace, and although he has still to determine what their purpose in coming here was, the penalty for being a thief or an assassin is the same and his guards are about to enforce it. He asks Erimem if she wants to argue for the intruder’s clemency, but she turns down the offer. When she turns to leave, he tells her she may be interested in this particular execution. She looks down and sees Peri struggling and demanding to see her lawyer. Erimem realises she’s been tricked, but Dracula insists that Peri must pay the price for breaking their laws. He reminds Erimem that she did not plea for clemency earlier and the crime has become no less severe since then. He warns her to think long and hard before she accuses him of deception. He is clearly offended that, despite eating at his table and sleeping in his palace, it seems that her dearest wish is to abandon him at her first opportunity. Erimem begs Dracula, adding that Peri is more than just a servant and is actually a dear friend, but to no avail. He tells her to avert her eyes - the stake will have been oiled already and it only remains for his men to tie the girl’s feet to the horses and then…
Suddenly there’s a commotion down in the courtyard. The Doctor has managed to overcome the guards and is struggling to untie Peri. She wonders where he got his disguise from and he points to a guard in his underpants lying unconscious under the bushes. He manages to release her and they both race towards some nearby horses. He helps Peri up, but before he can join her he’s struck from behind and falls to the ground. The terrifying visage of Dracula turns slowly towards Peri, who comments nervously on the fact that he’s shorter than she was expecting. Dracula tells her she could be forgiven for thinking she had nothing to lose a moment ago, but she will soon learn how mistaken she was. Erimem rushes over to join them and pleads with him not to hurt her friends, but he orders her to be silent. The dazed Doctor apologises for the intrusion and assures him he would have made a formal appeal to the Prince if there’d been time, but he’s only just arrived in the city and had to act quickly in order to prevent an injustice. Dracula laughs and is impressed by the Doctor’s boldness. The Doctor goes on to explain that Peri comes from a far away land where there are no kings or lords and women don’t know their place. He says he’s currently teaching her in the ways of civilisation, but whatever she did to offend the Prince, she did so in ignorance. Erimem confirms this and adds that Peri only broke the laws for her sake. Dracula ponders as to who he should hold to account for this crime. His royal sanctuary has been violated twice and his men assaulted, and that cannot go unpunished. The Doctor steps forward to accept the blame, but Erimem interrupts him and tells him it’s her responsibility. She turns to Dracula and offers to make a deal with him. If he agrees to release them both and swear to her that they won’t be harmed, she will remain here in his palace and pledge allegiance to him. She promises to be faithful to him for as long as he wishes. The Doctor and Peri tell Erimem that this is madness, but the offer has been made. Dracula asks if Erimem will be his wife and she accepts on oath that her life now belongs to him, her husband. The Prince turns to his people who are gathered around and declares that from now on Erimem will be known as the bride of Dracula!
On July 2nd, word reaches Radu that Sultan Mehmed has crossed the Wallachian border at last. No doubt he will return to Constantinople with claims of victory, but even as their army flees, a sickness has taken hold of their depleted ranks. Radu doubts they will ever be able to raise a winning force against Dracula, and even if they do, it’s unlikely the Sultan will be at its head. For this reason, Radu parts company with his army and remains behind in Wallachia with just a few loyal men.
Peri and the Doctor read the letter from Erimem in which she explains that Dracula has decided not to order them to leave out of respect for his wife-to-be. However, he remains uneasy that they’re both staying purely for her sake, so Erimem begs them to re-consider their position with great care. The Doctor realises she is warning them to leave Târgoviţte before they exhaust the Prince’s patience, but Peri says she can’t abandon their friend and blames herself for getting Erimem into this mess. The Doctor points out that Dracula is a man who’s used to getting what he wants and he’d have found a way to keep Erimem even if it hadn’t been for their intervention. Peri is sick of just waiting around while cooking and mending clothes, even if it does mean her sewing skills are improving. She’s currently a guest in the house of a woman named Irena while the Doctor has been helping out on the farms to earn food and a bed for the night. There’s no urgency for them to leave, so he suggests they wait and hope for a little bit longer. He had a quiet word with Radu before they went their separate ways and he has great hopes for that man. Peri doesn’t know what he can hope to do now that the Turkish army has gone home, but the Doctor reminds her that Radu isn’t a Turk. The next time they hear from him, the Doctor hopes that history itself will give them a helping hand…
For the last few days, Dracula has seemed distant towards Erimem and she wonders why he’s not in better spirits now that the siege of Chilia is over. He accepts that with another battle over they, can expect a few days of precious peace, but the price was the loss of another cousin. Erimem reminds Dracula that Stephen betrayed him and waited until he thought Dracula’s army were at their most vulnerable, tired from their fight with the Turks, and then attacked. It is said Stephen will not recover from his wounds, making him the latest victim of the curse of Dracula. Erimem wonders whether Dracula actually likes to think that his enemies, even his friends, regard him as some sort of demon. He tells her he wishes it would deter more people, but no sooner has he vanquished one threat than two more arise. It feels like there isn’t a king or a nobleman in the whole of Europe who isn’t plotting against him. Once again Erimem reminds him that the King of Hungary came to his aid at Chilia, but Dracula says it simply suited Matthias at the time to make a gesture, but he wasn’t there when Dracula begged for his help against Mehmed the Conqueror. Erimem admits that she’s heard the boyars wish for another man to take the throne, but Dracula refuses to discuss the matter with her. She becomes angry that although they eat together every day and discuss war, politics and trade, they never talk about themselves. She wants to learn more about the man who is to become her husband and wonders if he wants her to think he’s a demon too. She storms out and Dracula is resigned to the fact that even she is starting to turn against him.
The Doctor joins up with Peri in the village and asks if she’s finished her sewing for this morning. She shows him her handiwork but admits that it looks more like it was stitched by Frankenstein. He tells her he’s just been speaking to one of the local bigwigs who told him Radu has been trying to drum up support in the outlying villages. Peri hopes he can start drumming a bit quicker as she’s getting worried that Dracula will soon start to regard her as a freeloader - and everyone knows what he does to vagabonds. The Doctor reminds her that this is 1642 and in a few years time a law will be passed in Britain to deal with vagrancy. A first offender can expect to be whipped and have their eyes put out with a hot iron, and for a second offence the punishment is hanging. He asks her to judge history in its context and remember that Prince Vlad is a man of his time. Peri wonders whether they’re altering history just by being here, especially if Erimem is going to become Dracula’s bride, but the Doctor knows that the surviving written accounts of this time are few and unreliable and there‘s little they can be reasonably sure of. Is Erimem changing history or just taking her allotted place in it? There’s one single account that suggests Dracula might have been married around this time, but the name of his wife was never recorded. As they stroll through the village, a man bumps into the Doctor and rebukes him for not watching where he’s going. Peri continues to ponder how they’re going to get Erimem away from Dracula, but the Doctor has suddenly gone very quiet. He calmly tells her, while trying not to alarm her unduly, that the man who pushed past him appears to have plunged a knife into his chest! The Doctor collapses to the ground and Peri screams out for help.
Radu addresses a crowd of supporters and tells them he has listened to what they have to say over the last few weeks and he knows they speak with one voice. They say they have suffered in silence for long enough, that they have no homes and no cattle. He assures them the Sultan also wishes an end to this conflict, which is why he’s making them an offer. If they will pledge allegiance to Mehmed the Conqueror and restore to him his just tributes, this beloved land of theirs may retain its independence and a Wallachian Prince will remain on the throne - but not his brother. The group begin to cheer in agreement. Radu tells them that Vlad’s hold over his soldiers is weakening and day by day more of them are tiring of the privations he’s caused and are defecting to their ranks. He tells them it is time to bring an end to Dracula’s reign of cruelty.
Dracula finally relents and agrees to tell Erimem the truth about himself. He admits to gathering the boyars in his banqueting hall and asking them how many Princes they had known in their lives. Even the youngest of them could count seven or more. Erimem accuses him of butchering them because they’d followed other Princes, but he corrects her and says it was because they showed no loyalty to those Princes and he feared they would betray him too. There was one Prince in particular, a great man who they drove from this land and then cut down in the marshes as he fled for his life. Then they buried his son alive. Dracula says he punished the boyars not for future misdemeanours, but for sins already committed - for the murders of his father and his eldest brother!
Back at Irena’s house, Peri watches over the unconscious Doctor and pleads with him to wake up, or even flutter an eyelid. As she begins to cry, John Dobrin arrives, having just heard the news. He asks how the Doctor is, but Peri can’t tell him anything. In her frustration she blames Dracula for everything that’s happened to her friends. Dobrin asks if she’s reported the crime to the Prince, but Peri is certain he already knows all about it. She turns her attention back to the Doctor and tells him both she and Erimem need him. Dobrin examines him and discovers his skin is icy cold and that he’s hardly breathing. He tells Peri that he thinks the Doctor is dying and she breaks down in distress.
Dracula tells Erimem that he was still a captive of Sultan Murad II when he heard of his father’s murder and he swore then that he would avenge his death and honour the name of Dracul, the Dragon. Erimem says her family were also slain by power-hungry men and she can’t deny she would have treated them any differently if the gods had granted her the opportunity. Dracula knows he has sinned, but he says hard times have forced hard choices upon him. Sometimes he has chosen wrong, but he genuinely believes that when he faces his god, his good deeds will outweigh the bad. Erimem wonders whether he builds churches and monasteries everywhere to atone for his sins, but Dracula says his greatest concern has always been to make this land safe for his subjects and for his son. Erimem is stunned - she was unaware that he had an heir and Dracula admits that few people know of his existence. Mihnea is a fine boy and the throne will be his one day, but the two of them are not as close as Dracula would like and his son is ashamed that he was sent away to hide with his mother’s family. Erimem says this was not the act of a coward but of a father, even though Mihnea doesn’t see it that way. Dracula’s own father was a great man, but if he had one failing it was that he was too trusting. He saw the boyars plotting against him, but believed he could negotiate with them, just as he thought he could talk with the traitorous Murad when he willingly journeyed to the Sultan‘s court with two of his sons. But if Murad thought he could ensure his father’s loyalty with threats against his sons, he was wrong. Dracula refused to abase himself in the court of his enemy as his brother did, buying favour by offering his loyalty to the Sultan’s son Mehmed. Dracula dismisses his brother as submissive, but says that no matter how many beatings he received himself, they could not break him. In time, it was they who learned to respect and then fear him.
Later, Dracula summons John Dobrin to his palace and tells him it is time. Dobrin tries to persuade him that things have not got that bad yet, but Dracula says that with each day more of his soldiers are defecting to Radu and his cohort of traitor boyars. Even the lowliest of his people, the ones for whom he has spilled his blood and imperilled his soul, now whisper against him. He knows Dobrin is an honest man and asks him to look him in the eye and tell him it is not so. Dobrin finally admits that the people are saying they’re tired of going hungry, of seeing their homes destroyed and of losing their families. Dracula knows they’re prepared to sacrifice their protector in order to see an end to their troubles. Dobrin assures him not everyone thinks this way, but one man’s words are not enough. Dracula swears that his enemies will not find him unprepared and won’t ambush him as they did his father. It was for just this situation that he built his fortress. He tells Dobrin to prepare for departure, and Dobrin offers to ride ahead with his brothers to Poienari and make sure everything is ready for his arrival.
As the rain thrashes down upon the city, Erimem meets up with Peri in secret and they take cover under a gateway. She can’t see them now, but Erimem knows she’s being followed by Dracula’s spies. She’s come to find out how the Doctor is, but the news is not good. His wound has stopped bleeding, but he’s still unconscious and they now think the knife may have been poisoned. Erimem tells her Dracula was furious when he heard what happened and she even had to persuade him not to punish all his citizens to force out the person responsible. Peri is sceptical and says it’s too much of a coincidence that the Doctor was attacked the very day after Dracula said he wanted them both gone. She becomes angry when Erimem defends Dracula and reminds her that he kidnapped her, but Erimem insists that he’s treated her well and that she stays with him out of choice. She’s sure Peri would think differently if she came to know Dracula as she has done, but Peri hasn’t forgotten that little incident with the stake and the horses. Erimem accuses her of being cynical and always looking for the worst in everybody, but Peri says Dracula is one of the most evil men who ever lived. Erimem believes he’s basically a good man and could have been a benign ruler if fate had not conspired against him. She tells Peri that she’s come to say goodbye as she will be travelling to Poienari tomorrow. Her friend is distraught - all this time she and the Doctor have been trying to find a way to get Erimem out of the palace, only to find that she wants to stay. The last time Erimem asked Peri to leave Târgoviţte it was on Dracula’s behalf, but now she’s asking it for her own sake. She wants them to find the TARDIS and resume their travels. If they are to think of her at all in the future, she wants them to remember the happy times they shared together. She’s confident the Doctor will recover so she asks Peri to say goodbye for her. She begins to cry, then bids farewell and walks off into the rain…
Radu remembers that his father thought him weak and untrustworthy, and that he was always regarded as the odd sheep in the family. His father and brothers were alike in so many ways, fighting their own battles at the expense of their people. The servant girl Ayfer is uncomfortable with him being so open in front of her and he realises she’s more accustomed to being told what to think by others who have power over her. But he tells her they’re not so different, despite his royal blood. It’s his brothers who have always held the power, not him, and he was never allowed to think that the throne might ever be his. He wonders whether it’s the thirst for power that makes men unfit to wield it. He was content to obey his father, but now the throne lies within his grasp, he can feel its pull and he’s afraid. Will he prove to himself that he’s a better man, or will he succumb to the curse of Dracula and become a worse tyrant than his brother? Fear of Kazýklý Bey’s name makes Ayfer drop the tray she’s carrying and she apologises for showing disrespect to Radu.
Early the next morning, Peri is woken by the sound of thingy crow. She yawns and threatens to lob a brick at the bird if it continues, then when the Doctor starts quoting Edward Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, she threatens to lob a brick at him too! Then she jumps out of bed with a start when she realises what this means and she races over and hugs the recovered Doctor. He tells her he was saved by his anatomy - if he’d have had just the one heart, he would certainly be dead, but fortunately the assassin’s knife fell between the two and caused only minor damage. He asks for an update on what’s happened and Peri tells him Erimem has decided to stay behind with Dracula. The Doctor feared something like this would happen. Peri thinks she must have been hypnotised, but the Doctor explains that Erimem has spent a great deal of time with the Prince and it’s possible she’s become genuinely fond of him. Whatever the reason, their friend is leaving for Poienari today, which is the town where John Dobrin originally came from. The Doctor knows the place and says it’s in an ideal position for what remains of Dracula’s army to defend while they await reinforcements from the Hungarian King. Unfortunately for Dracula, those reinforcements will never come, but the Turks won’t take control of Wallachia either. Sultan Mehmed has had enough of this place for one lifetime, so Radu will become the new Prince - yet it’s his brother who will always be remembered as the hero, the man whose extraordinary tactics saved his country. Peri asks what will happen to Erimem, but the Doctor sidesteps the question and says it’s best they don’t go into that right now. He asks her to speak to her friend John and see if she can persuade him to let her travel with their caravan. If Dracula makes enquiries she can always say she’s heading for pastures new across the border. He promises to meet her in Poienari but says the roads to the south are still dangerous and he’ll stand a better chance of making it on his own. He wants to collect the TARDIS first and bring it to Poienari as they might still have one last chance to persuade Erimem to come with them. However, Peri needs to prepare herself for the fact that it’s Erimem’s choice, so she might not agree.
As Erimem prepares to leave, she writes another letter to her beloved friends. She urges them not to worry about her and assures them she knows what she’s doing. She explains that from childhood, her life was mapped out for her. She was born to royalty, yet a slave to protocol. But the Doctor has shown her so much more and Peri has become like a sister to her. She can hardly bear the thought that she might never see them again and she knows they will see her actions as a sacrifice, but she promises them she can be happy here. She’s grateful for the time they had together, but duty is calling to her once more and she can no longer run from it. She finishes the letter as the door opens and Dracula calls for her to join him on their long journey.
The Doctor prepares a horse for his journey, but just as he’s about to ride off, he’s stopped by Peri who calls out to him to stop. She’s been thinking about what he said earlier and now she demands that he tells her the truth about the future and what’s going to happen here. She knows he’s been keeping something from her and she refuses point-blank to leave until he tells her everything he knows about Dracula’s wife. He reminds her that he only knows of one person’s account and history told from a single viewpoint is always hugely unreliable. Peri realises something bad is going to happen to Erimem and reluctantly the Doctor agrees to tell her what he knows. The single written account was from a peasant who claimed to have witnessed events at Poienari involving someone believed to be Dracula’s bride. There’s a stretch of the River Argeţ which, even in the present day, is still known as the Raul Doamnei - the Princess’s River - which marks the spot where Dracula’s wife allegedly threw herself from the battlements of his fortress. Peri is convinced Erimem would never take her own life, which means Dracula is going to murder her by pushing her to her death. The Doctor agrees, but unless they can intervene, the fact remains that Erimem will die tomorrow night at Castle Dracula. He orders her to get back to John Dobrin while he races off on a mission to alter history…
The Prince welcomes Erimem to Castle Dracula, the proudest achievement of his reign. He admits that the quarters are less comfortable than those of his palace, but the walls are strong and they have the shelter of the mountainside. For his enemies to attack, they must come out into the fields below and risk being caught by his bowmen. Erimem warns that no fortress can stand forever, but Dracula says it only needs to serve its purpose until help arrives. She’s worried that he’s placing too much trust in the Hungarian King, but Dracula is certain he won’t turn his back on them this time because if Wallachia falls to Mehmed the Conqueror, it will leave Hungary exposed too. Dracula knows that Radu will come for him eventually, whether it be next week or next month, so he has taken to wearing his royal black cloak so that his brother will recognise their father’s chosen heir.
As she arrives in Poienari, Peri is grabbed from behind and lifted into the air. Under threat that her screams will rise by at least an octave if she isn’t put down, Radu the Handsome arrives and asks the soldier to release her. She denies skulking around and claims to have been looking for the Doctor. She notices his TARDIS is strapped to one of their carts and Radu admits that the Doctor is indeed a guest in his camp. Peri tells him she and the Doctor plan to get into Castle Dracula to rescue Erimem, but Radu refuses to let them go as Dracula has no idea he’s so close on his heels and he wants his enemy to remain ignorant of that fact. If they were to be captured and the truth extracted under torture, Dracula would know Radu’s whereabouts and ready his men accordingly. Peri insists on being allowed to warn Erimem before they attack the castle, but although Radu appreciates her loyalty, he reminds her that Erimem has chosen to side with Dracula even though it may cost her her life.
Peri is escorted to a nearby tent where the Doctor is being held as Radu’s ‘guest’. The Doctor isn’t remotely surprised to see her, despite having ordered her to stay in the village. She assures him she did go to the village, but he suspects she simply chilled out with John and his brothers until she got bored. He doesn’t blame her and admits that he’d been planning to slip away and find her before now anyway, but unfortunately Radu doesn’t trust him enough to allow him freedom. Radu is on the verge of everything he’s ever desired and for him, this conflict is more about family than politics or religion. She asks the Doctor what his plan is and he tells her he needs her to get back to the village, tell John Dobrin that Radu is here and that his master must act tonight. The Doctor will divert the guards’ attention while she gets away and then he with a bit of luck he can set a few more events in motion too…
Dracula urges Erimem to come away from the window, but she tells him she thought she saw a shape across the River and some movement under the trees. He assures her his brother is miles behind them and believes she’s just jumping at shadows. Erimem is disturbed by how quiet everything is and recalls that back home she always had people around her. When she started travelling with the Doctor and Peri she had true friends for the first time and even the walls of her room aboard the TARDIS felt alive, as if they were watching over her. Dracula comforts her and tells her she need not feel alone now that he is here. She wonders how much longer he will remain by her side, but he promises her he will not abandon her. He tells her she is special to him and in his experience few other women know what it’s like to command a country at war. Erimem is flattered, but he also says that beyond those qualities he admires her as a woman. He confirms what he told her earlier - he wants her to be his bride. He tells her she need not be alone tonight and there are other places away from this dark, draughty tower room they can go…
Hidden behind the trees on the other side of the River, the Doctor is looking up at the castle and waiting for the figure in the window to move away so he can fire the arrow from his bow. Suddenly, a group of soldiers arrives and orders him to put away the weapon. The Doctor refuses to back down and tells them the arrow in his hand will make history and the only question is - how will the story end? The lead soldier tells the others to lower their swords as the man is clearly mad. He mocks the Doctor and points out that the arrow was unlikely to reach half-way across the River anyway, but the Doctor is confident he can meet his target. Before they can stop him, he fires off the arrow and then ponders on what might happen next…
In the tower room, Dracula awaits Erimem’s response to his suggestion. Before she can answer, she cries out a warning and they both dive for cover on the floor. An arrow flies through the window and embeds itself in the far wall. The furious Dracula realises the ‘assassin’ must be on top of Poienari Hill and probably saw the light through the window and assumed it to be his bed chamber. Erimem realises the man must have been an excellent shot as the arrow even extinguished the candle flame and it flew through the room. Dracula re-lights the candle to show the ’assassin’ that they’re not afraid, but then Erimem notices there’s a parchment attached to the arrow. Realising they’ve been sent a message, she reads it and discovers it’s a warning.
Peri is frustrated and tells John Dobrin they’re wasting time and need to hurry if they’re to save Erimem. He disagrees and tells her they need to be sure this part of the River isn’t being watched, because if it is they must warn his brothers. Peri doesn’t think it’s likely there’ll be any sentries as the road to the castle is right around the other side of the hill. Dobrin moves aside some bushes and reveals a secret cave entrance that connects to a tunnel leading directly into the Prince’s cellar. Only Dracula and the Dobrin family know of its existence. It was built by the Prince to ensure that even in the hour of his darkest defeat, he could escape to fight again. They move inside the cave…
The soldiers bring the Doctor before Radu and tell him they caught the intruder sending a message to Dracula. Radu turns on the Doctor and accuses him of being a spy in his camp all along, but the Doctor assures him his actions had nothing to do with their family squabble and was motivated only by concern for his friend inside the castle. Radu says his actions have imperilled his country, but the Doctor points out that from Dracula also believes he is the one fighting on behalf of Wallachia. Radu decides they can no longer wait until dawn and he orders his men to set up cannons and bombards in the field beyond the River. He urges the leader of the soldiers to wake up the remainder of their small army as they need to hurry before their foe is able to flee again into the night. The Doctor tells Radu there’s no need for him to do this as Dracula has no army left and Radu has already won the war, but Radu knows his brother and says that all the while he is alive and free, he’ll cast a shadow over this land. The Doctor is furious that Radu is prepared to let Erimem and Peri die if they get in his way, but Radu says if the Doctor’s companions have conspired with his enemy, all three of them are therefore guilty of treason. The Doctor challenges Radu and asks if he’s going to be hanged, boiled alive or decapitated, but Radu suggests the recommended penalty these days is impalement. The Doctor congratulates the new monarch - he’s only been in power for five minutes and he already sounds just like his predecessor!
Dracula wishes he’d got rid of the Doctor and Peri when he had the chance. He reminds Erimem that her friends swore they would leave his country, but she says it’s a good thing they stayed. Dracula refuses to believe the Doctor’s warning and says it is unlikely his brother, who can’t even pick his own nose without first begging leave of the Sultan, would have disobeyed his master and followed them here secretly. Erimem insists that the Doctor wouldn’t lie, but Dracula says he doesn’t need any help to fight Radu. His bride-to-be asks why then does he send daily letters to the King of Hungary and pace the towers of this fortress waiting for his reply? She reminds him that his brother’s army is far greater than his own and if the boyars have sided with Radu too, that makes him the new ruler of Wallachia. Dracula turns angrily on her and asks what she would have him do, turn and run, leaving his land and people in the hands of a puppet of an infidel, without even lifting a hand in protest? She asks what good it will do if he sees his few remaining supporters killed in a futile gesture? He insists that reinforcements will come, but Erimem doesn’t think Matthias will pledge his forces to a lost cause. All that remains to Dracula is his pride and his life, and she would prefer to see him sacrifice the former in order to preserve the latter. Dracula accuses Erimem of betraying him too, but she says she would gladly fight at his side if there was any purpose in doing so - but she will not die at his side merely to satisfy his pride. She storms off, but he calls after her and says she will regret her effrontery and he is not yet as powerless as she believes…
As Peri follows Dobrin up the ladder leading into the castle cellar, she rebukes him for repeatedly kicking her in the face. He asks if she wants to swap places, but he doesn’t care much for her chances if the first thing Dracula‘s guards see is her head popping out! If he goes first, at least most of the guards will recognise him. Eventually they arrive at their destination and Dobrin slides across the cover that will allow them access to Castle Dracula.
As Radu leads the Doctor into the forest at the point of his sword, the Doctor reminds him that if it wasn’t for his advice earlier, Radu would be back home with the Sultan by now, defeated and disgraced. Radu hasn’t forgotten this, but the Doctor’s act of treachery was witnessed by too many men and he can’t afford to appear weak. If he does, it will give the boyars an excuse to turn on him as they’ve turned on every other Prince. The Doctor wonders why Radu has taken him so far away from his camp and Radu explains that deep down he believes the Doctor is actually a good man, if a little foolish. He lowers his sword and tells the Doctor to go to his friends and save them. He didn’t bring him here to kill him, but to set him free. He asks only one thing in return - once the Doctor’s task is done, he must leave this country and never come back. Should their paths ever cross again, he won’t be able to show such clemency a second time. The Doctor understands and thanks the new Prince, assuring him that he’s a much stronger man than his brother ever was.
Dracula manages to track down Erimem on the battlements where she was looking for proof of what the Doctor told them. She shows Dracula that the castle is indeed surrounded and they can see Radu’s men preparing the cannons. Dracula seems quite prepared to let his brother try, certain that all they’ll achieve is to tire themselves and exhaust their weapons. He notes that Erimem seems very sure he will lose this battle and a slip of her tongue reveals that the Doctor is able to foresee the future. Dracula mocks her and he accuses the Doctor of being either a sorcerer. He now believes Erimem is a spy for the Sultan, sent here to gain his confidence and weaken him. Erimem denies it and says Dracula already has enough genuine enemies without the need to invent new conspiracies where they don’t exist, but he becomes even more convinced and even begins to suspect Matthias has signed a pact with Sultan Mehmed to aid a temporary truce between neighbours. He tells Erimem her deception was bound to be exposed eventually, so she should feel no loyalty to his enemies. She tells him he already knows the truth and is simply looking for someone else to blame and to punish. In an uncontrollable fit of rage, he attacks her and threatens to hurl her from the battlement, but she tells him her death will solve nothing and it won’t make living with the truth any easier. Suddenly they hear Peri’s voice calling and she races forward, ordering Dracula to leave her friend alone! She tries to pull them apart, but Dracula lashes out and knocks Peri to the ground. Erimem pleads with him not to hurt Peri, but he has tired of all their excuses and believes he has allowed evil to take root in his country. Now he has had enough and he tells Erimem that Peri will be his first sacrifice to the god of victory, convinced that her blood will secure his victory. Erimem screams for mercy, but Dracula tells her it’s too late. He pulls Peri to her feet, drags her towards the edge of the parapet and then physically throws her over..
The Doctor makes his way along the riverbank, searching for the famous secret tunnel mentioned in all the accounts of Vlad Dracula’s life. Eventually he’s successful and congratulates the history books on their accuracy. Unfortunately, before he can make his way inside, he’s stopped by a soldier who he assumes followed him from Radu’s camp. The Doctor assures him he’s alone and unarmed, but the soldier orders him to be silent.
Below the parapet, Peri is clinging by her fingertips to the stones of the fortress. Erimem tries to grab hold of her, but the wind is so strong, she can’t get a good grip. She calls to Dracula for help, but he orders her to let Peri die, like all traitors. John Dobrin arrives and checks that his Prince is alright. Peri hears him and calls his name. Dobrin turns to his master and assures him that Peri came with him to warn Dracula that his brother’s forces have him surrounded. The truth dawns on Dracula and he realises the women aren’t traitors after all, so he grants Dobrin permission to save Peri if he wishes. With his help, Erimem manages to drag Peri to safety and Dracula says he had no alternative after she attacked him. Before they can argue further, there’s an enormous explosion and they realise Radu’s troops have started to open fire with their cannons. Peri is quite content to let Dracula give up and die and insists that Erimem accompany her to safety. Erimem refuses and reminds her that she gave her oath to the Prince and she will not go back on it. Peri is amazed that she’s still defending him after all that’s happened, but Dracula intervenes and tells Erimem to leave with her friend. He asks Dobrin to show her the way to safety and admits that he was wrong to question her motives for staying and he now releases her from her vow. Erimem tries to protest, but he insists she goes. She agrees, but only on the condition that he comes with her. Peri objects and, for once, Dracula agrees with her and says it’s time for them to part ways. Dobrin says his brothers are waiting at the cave entrance with enough horses for Dracula, his princess and his personal guard. They’ve already plotted a route through the Făgăraş mountains and they‘re sure no one will be able to follow them. Erimem sees this as evidence that Dracula’s people haven’t turned their backs on him after all and she again urges him to come with them. Dobrin agrees and says Radu could never protect the people like Dracula did and Wallachia will need his strength again. Reluctantly Dracula agrees to let fate decide his outcome and he asks Dobrin to lead the way.
The Doctor is surprised when he hears Peri’s complaining voice echoing down the tunnel by the river. She’s delighted to be reunited with him and wonders why he’s here, so he explains that he came looking for her and ran into the Dobrin brothers. At first he thought they were Radu’s men and it took them a while to work out they were on the same side. Peri reveals that Dracula has released Erimem from her promise, so she can come back to the TARDIS with them now. Peri reminds them that Dracula is right behind them in the tunnel, so they’d better get out of there before he sees the Doctor and changes his mind again. Erimem agrees as she’s already told Dracula everything she needed to tell him, but the Doctor decides to stay behind as there are a few things he wants to say to the Prince himself. He asks the other to wait outside and then moments later, Dracula himself appears in the tunnel. He’s not surprised to see the Doctor here - although they’ve only met once, he suspects the Doctor’s had more than a little to do with his fortunes recently, both good and bad. The Doctor assures him he’s only ever had one goal and Dracula believes him. He asks him to take good care of Erimem. He says she’s a unique woman and would have made a magnificent bride for him, but he knows now that it’s not to be. He plans to return to Transylvania, the land of his birth, but he promises to come back one day and reclaim his father’s throne. When the Doctor confirms that he will indeed get back the throne, Dracula asks if he truly is a sorcerer as Erimem claimed. The Doctor says he no more possesses the dark arts than Dracula himself does and you shouldn’t believe everything people say about you. That’s how myths and legends start. Dracula bids farewell and warns the Doctor to prevent Erimem falling into the hands of his brother’s soldiers, in case they wish to exact their revenge upon her for the sins he‘s committed. The Doctor may not be a sorcerer, but he promises Dracula he can make Erimem disappear…
“And so Castle Dracula has been taken with hardly a fight. But my worst fear has come to pass - of my brother, there is no trace. He’s vanished, as completely as if he’d become one with the mist and drifted away. And there is sadness, too, because I hear from one of the villagers that the Doctor’s mission was in vain. The Pharaoh Erimem was seen falling from the battlements of Castle Dracula. One of the last casualties of our war. It is said she chose to have her body rot and be eaten by the fish of the Argeş than remain a prisoner any longer. I greatly regret her passing and I swear that while I am voivode, her death will not be forgotten.”
When the Doctor reads out this passage from Radu’s journal, Peri and Erimem rebuke him for stealing it. The Doctor tears out some pages and explains that there are things it’s best history didn’t record. In any case, he didn’t steal the journal. While Dobrin was reclaiming the TARDIS for them, the Doctor paid one of Radu’s soldiers to bring it to him. Peri jokes that bribery and corruption would never have happened in Dracula’s time and is surprised when Erimem actually agrees with this statement. They start to argue again, but the Doctor interrupts them and says they’ll just have to agree to disagree on this point. Erimem asks what’s going to happen to Dracula and the Doctor tells her he’ll make good on his promise to reclaim the throne, but if they’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that history isn’t always written by the victors. The women start to tease him about being mistaken for a fool, but at least it was only according to a single unreliable source.
|Source: Lee Rogers