Vlad III’s first cry rang at the devil’s hour, at 3 A.M., in December 1431. The snow was constantly pouring outside of the one-story concrete house where he was born, while the German-speaking Saxon merchants were having a meeting on how to make more money.
Vlad’s father Vlad II, Prince of Wallachia, requested the Saxons that he and his family may live within the city walls of Sighişoara, Transylvania, as he was chased away by Ottoman supporter boyars. In return, he gave a striking trading deal with the Saxons. The merchant Saxons, who lived in this great military fortress, naturally agreed.
Years passed and he gathered supporters in Transylvania to seize the throne of Wallachia. So in 1437, his father successfully killed the prince, Alexandru I, and his father became the occupant of the throne. His family then came to live in Wallachia once again.
However, his father was under political pressure by the sultan of Turkey. Therefore, even though he was a vassal of the king of Hungary and a Knight of the Order of the Dragon, he promised to pay tribute to the sultan and was forced to give up his two younger sons, Vlad III and Radu.
“I promise to be your vassal and as a pledge to this promise, I give up to you my two valuable sons.” Vlad II sighed as he looked at the sultan’s fierce face.
The dark-eyed sultan nodded slowly. His eyes probed Vlad II’s.
“Then you can have the throne, Dragon,” the sultan acknowledged.
Vlad III was thirteen years old when he was given hostage to the sultan together with his younger brother Radu. The two young brothers looked at each other with fear when the Ottoman soldiers took them away from their castle.
Vlad III looked at his father’s stoic face. Deep inside, he wanted to shout at his father why he had done such a thing. Why did he and his brother have to be taken away from their family and far away from their beloved home?
Vlad then saw his mother, Princess Cneajna of Moldavia, running and crying while she dashed to the castle grounds to see her sons taken away. Their father caught her by the waist and embraced her and saw him broke into tears as well. Their older brother, Mircea, was looking at them with a helpless expression on his face.
Vlad III looked away from his parents and older brother and held his younger brother’s hand instead. A determination formed in his young but formidable eyes.
“I will take care of you, Radu. I promise,” he told his brother.
“Yes. I know that, brother.” His brother nodded and smiled bravely at him. Confidence oozed from Radu as he trusted the older boy.
The two sons of the Wallachian Prince were welcomed by the sultan in his big royal house. Soldiers and servants were everywhere. Vlad then realized that he and his brother could not easily escape as necessary. And yet, he wasn’t one to easily give up. He knew he could do it one day.
“From now on, consider this place your own home,” the old sultan spoke and smiled at them with his arms wide open.
Mehmed II, the son of the sultan, stared at the two young boys with probing eyes. He was a year younger than Vlad but three years older than Radu.
“Tomorrow, you shall begin your training,” the old sultan told them.
The two boys were silent but Vlad’s fists were tight at his sides. He knew the sultan would merely use them one day. But he swore to himself that he wouldn’t be used as the sultan would please. He glanced at his brother whose face seemed to be excited at the thought of undergoing training.
They were given separate rooms. Thus, Vlad could not speak to his brother freely. He could barely sleep that night, remembering his parents’ teary face, especially his mother’s. She was his beloved teacher and tutor. She taught him the values of justice and love.
A year or so later, they got news that their mother died of an illness. Vlad’s heart seemed to be crumpled painfully in his chest. He looked at Radu whose eyes were downcast. He ran away from the training ground and went into his room and cried his heart out.
One day, he promised to himself, I shall take my revenge.
The years quickly passed by. The two young boys were now young adults. They constantly went on training with pro-Ottoman boyars, the high-ranking soldiers and with Sultan Murad II himself.
The sultan, even though abdicated his throne to his son Mehmed II in 1444 to 1446, was forced to take the throne back because of the Janissary revolution.
He was so strict and ruthless. The young adults were taken to different garrisons at Ediner. Also, they were taught logic and the Quran. Then they were educated in Persian and Turkish languages as well. They learned horse riding, warfare and literature at the same time.
Whenever Vlad behaved stubbornly or rebelliously, he was beaten and put into prison. Radu, he realized, was taken into Mehmed and did not even want to speak to him lately.
He was outraged when he learned that Radu wanted to convert himself to Islam. He was so furious that he even beat the boyar who taught him how to fight that day.
In 1447, while he was on his way to his prison room with two soldiers behind him, he saw his brother together with the sultan and a messenger.
“The Prince of Wallachia, Vlad II, and his son Mircea had fallen, great sultan.” The messenger seemed to be happy delivering the news.
Vlad heard it and stopped in his tracks. He looked at the old sultan and his brother with anguish. His curled fists were so tight at his sides, and his eyes probed dangerously as he glared at the trio.
“What does this mean?” Radu asked the old sultan.
At the time, Mehmed walked into the room and looked at Vlad. “Father, it is time to appoint the new ruler of Wallachia then,” he suggested to his father.
“Yes, I know that,” the sultan agreed.
Vlad walked closer to the group, and he demanded, “What happened to my father and my older brother?”
The old sultan turned to look at him. “Your father who wanted to play it neutral was killed by the noble boyars who are loyal to the king of Hungary. Now, if you want revenge, I can put you on the throne.”
Vlad swallowed and looked at his brother. “But how about my younger brother?” he asked.
“Radu will stay here with us. I will send you to Wallachia with some soldiers. You shall rule from there in the name of Allah. But not right now. Hunyadi just appointed Vladislav II on the Wallachian throne. You must prepare to overthrow him. That is what you need to do at the moment.”
Vlad did not say anything but was seething.
He prepared night and day, training himself hard into exhaustion. He was also dreaming every night that he was going to Wallachia by early morning the next day. He felt a surge of excitement of the prospect of being free soon. He was going back home at last!
Vlad began to be fiercer while on training. The Turks noticed it. They praised him for his talent in the art of fighting at his young age.