Kiss of the Butterfly, страница 1
Praise for Kiss of the Butterfly
“A fast-paced adventure into a modern heart of Balkan darkness… A truly original take on the blood-sucking undead.”
“In the glut of vampire-themed novels now on the market, Lyon’s debut stands out… skillful… authentic… fascinating… inspired… Lyon executes it perfectly... vivid... engaging... sophisticated.”
“Lyon shapes his vampire from Balkan folklore… Well written and at times lyrical… A good read!”
–Professor Elizabeth Miller
“Not your usual vampire book. It shows a different vampire than people are used to seeing… a very good story… rich and fascinating.”
–Vampire Romance Guild
“A wonderful surprise…the modern day vampire mythos is completely shattered and restructured as a truth, backed by historical fact…My heart and spirit stirred.”
“Deeply rooted in Balkan vampire lore…this guy knows his stuff…It's a great read…You'll want to add it to your collection.”
“A denouement of action and heart-pounding resolution… It was a wild ride to the ending,… If you liked “The Historian”, you’ll love Kiss of the Butterfly.”
–Vampire Romance Books
“In one word: fascinating…Completely unique and unlike anything I’ve experienced before… A much-needed dose of reality amid the craziness that is the vampire genre.”
“An exciting read… A well-crafted mix of fact in fiction… fascinating… I can highly recommend Kiss of the Butterfly.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Lyon has over three decades of experience with the Balkans and the lands of former Yugoslavia: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Although he calls San Diego home, he has lived and studied in Massachussetts, Florida, Germany, Utah, the Soviet Union, and England. He has a Ph.D. in Balkan History from UCLA and has lived in the Balkans for more than 18 years, during which time he has worked for international peacekeeping efforts, civil society organizations, and as a business consultant. A well-known political analyst, he divides his time between Belgrade, Sarajevo and the Dalmatian coast.
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Kiss of the Butterfly
First print edition published in 2013.
Copyright © 2011 by James Lyon. All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
All artwork in the chapter headings is the property of the author, and he asserts his moral and legal rights to these illustrations.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
This is a work of fiction set against the background of actual historical events, namely, the breakup of Yugoslavia. All incidents and dialogue and all characters, with the exception of some well-known historical and public figures, are a product of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Where real-life historical or public figures appear, the situations, incidents and dialogues concerning those persons are entirely fictional and are not intended to depict actual events or to change the entirely fictional nature of the work. In all other respects, any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 James Lyon
All rights reserved.
Front and back cover art by David Grogan of Head Design
To My Elusive Butterfly
Chapter 1: A Letter From A Distant Shore
Chapter 2: The Order Of The Dragon
Chapter 3: It’s Only Folklore
Chapter 4: A Missing Librarian
Chapter 5: Breaking The Spell
Chapter 6: The Widow’s Supper
Chapter 7: The Lazarevic Stake
Chapter 8: The Adversary Awakens
Chapter 9: The Truth Will Out
Chapter 10: The Chamber Of Crosses
Chapter 11: The Hilltop Grave
Chapter 12: The Butterfly’s Lair
Chapter 13: The Walls Of Ram
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Any book requires input from others, and Kiss of the Butterfly is no exception. Many people assisted me with proofreading and offering suggestions, including Neil MacDonald, Kevin Sullivan, Christopher Bennett, Christen Farmer, Barkin Kayaoglu, Roger LaBrie, Paul Fedorko, Mark Wheeler, Therese Nelson, Mary Theisen, and James K. Lyon. David Grogan did a superb job of translating Kiss and my ramblings into two fantastic book covers. I owe a great deal to my wife Maja, for pushing me forward. I also wish to thank countless individuals throughout the former Yugoslavia, who over more than three decades have given me many rich and wonderful human experiences that provided material for this book.
The creatures depicted in this book – popularly known as vampires – are based on authentic descriptions from Balkan folklore recorded by ethnographers in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, and they differ significantly from pop-culture stereotypes. Most historical references to vampires in this book are factual. For further details, see the Historical Note at the end of the book.
Documented reports of vampire-related activity continue throughout the Balkans to this day, the most recent having occurred in 2011 in Serbia.
– Sarajevo & Belgrade, March 2013
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.
– Genesis 3:1
The victorious army followed the Drina River upstream, Serbia on the left bank, Bosnia on the right. As the host advanced, mountains rose along the river, their snowy forests thick and foreboding. Grey mists stretched forth their tendrils from the undergrowth, ascended from the emerald waters and tumbled down the mountain slopes in avalanches of billowing cloud.
The morning fog’s caresses gave way to a stronger embrace that drove the sun from the valley’s d
The host’s armored mass cut everything before it, like the blade of a mower’s scythe slicing its way through wheat that is white and ready to harvest. Outriders scouted ahead of the main body, followed by heavily armored knights, archers, infantry, retainers, baggage wagons and pack horses, closely pursued by the myriad scruffy camp followers: blacksmiths, leatherworkers, cobblers, beer and wine vendors, prostitutes, cooks, washerwomen, gamblers, con artists, scavengers and money lenders. What the soldiers left the camp followers swept clean in the army’s wake as winged scavengers circled overhead, ready to swoop and gorge themselves on corpses abandoned in the mud. All reaped what they had not sown, while sowing seeds of a harvest their children’s children’s children would one day reap.
The army had rested briefly after its victory over the Turks at Sabac, and was once again on the move southward, albeit greatly reduced in size after Hungarian King Matthius Corvinus had departed with his court and most of the knights, infantry and spoils. He left behind a vassal, the Prince of Wallachia, Vlad III, to command 5,000 Serbian and Wallachian feudal levies, mixed with Italian and German mercenaries. This smaller army swept across the snow-covered Macva plain, past Mt. Cer and across the runoff-swollen Drina into Bosnia, setting torch to farm houses and villages, putting to the sword or enslaving the men and children, while taking the women for their pleasure.
Vlad halted the army at the approaches to the city of Zvornik, where the valley narrowed while his cavalry scouts overran the lightly guarded fortifications on the heights overlooking the city. Early on the morrow as the sun wrestled the mists, Vlad sat astride his horse and watched smoking chimneys rise up out of the cloud below, as a city once hidden now materialized from the morning fog. He flung back a dark green cape fastened around a bull neck to reveal full armor and a large sword with six golden dragons emblazoned on the scabbard.
A rider approached. ‘Your Highness,’ he spoke archaic Romanian. ‘The Turkish commander will surrender the city, in exchange for a pledge that the garrison leave in peace. He asks that you spoil neither the city nor its inhabitants. The Christians of this place have pledged to swear allegiance to His Apostolic Majesty, the King of Hungary and to the Holy Father.’
Vlad looked at him with green eyes, blinked his dark lashes and sniffed curiously, as if scenting food nearby. ‘And the troops?’ he asked.
‘They seek prizes, my prince. His Majesty did them great injustice by taking the plunder with him to Hungary.’
‘Yes,’ muttered Vlad pensively as he stroked his long bushy moustache. ‘The Turks will have their safe passage, but without weapons. They must swear never again to fight against the Holy Cross. Then hurry to Mircea, and tell him to take the German and Italian mercenaries to the south of the city.’
‘We will take much spoil in this place,’ Vlad thought to himself. ‘I will enjoy this greatly.’
* * *
His stocky body wrapped in silks, Vlad reclined against velvet cushions set on a lush carpet, sipping blood-red wine from a gem-encrusted goblet. He could smell himself from the blood and human gore that soaked his clothes following two days of unfettered indulgence. ‘Tomorrow I shall bathe in the thermal springs,’ he thought. ‘And I shall order the troops to do the same.’
It was late and the orgy of bloodshed had exhausted him. Oil lamps cast a dim light on oriental decadence that flickered between shadows: cushions, rugs, bolts of silk, all doused in the splendiferous nuances of brilliant golds, purples and scarlets. A naked girl whimpered softly at his side where he had tossed her, iron bands around her wrists and ankles, bruises on her body, her face swollen from blows, trickles of blood running from her nose, lips and thighs.
Although Vlad had promised safe passage, his mercenaries had fallen upon the unarmed Turkish soldiers and the heavily laden wagons of the merchants and artisans. They had separated the men from the women: the men he had impaled on stakes along the roadside as warning, the women he had given to his troops. And the Turkish commander, yes…he had taken such delight in torturing him. ‘Impalement is so time-consuming,’ he thought. ‘But the Turks understand only that.’ Even now some of the victims clung painfully to life, the night breeze carrying their faint moans to Vlad’s tent. He had set his soldiers loose on the city, running amok among the Christian inhabitants, looting, burning, raping. When the town’s priest complained, Vlad had strangled him with the very chain from the priest’s own cross. Not a soul had escaped south to warn the Ottoman garrisons in other cities and towns.
Firelight danced around the entrance of Vlad’s captured Turkish tent to highlight an approaching shadow. The guards challenged it, then permitted it to pass, and the shadow emerged into the dim light, a tall, dark-haired man with handsomely cruel features, his bearing unsteady. The nostrils of Vlad’s thin nose flared as he sniffed: the newcomer smelled of wine and human blood.
‘My prince,’ he uttered with slurred speech. ‘You called.’
‘Mircea,’ the prince said softly, brushing his dark curly locks from his face onto broad shoulders. ‘You have served me well.’ He extended the bejeweled chalice to Mircea: ‘Take wine from my cup. It was found in the cellar of the garrison, a Pavlovac from the slopes of Mt. Kosmaj in the coasts south of Belgrade. It is so thick that one does not drink it…rather, it must be eaten.’ He laughed at his own little joke; Mircea laughed along and took the proffered goblet. ‘Isn’t it funny how the soldiers of Allah drink the fruit of the vine like Christians?’ Vlad poured himself more wine, and then struck the girl across her face. ‘Silence,’ he said viciously. She curled up in a ball and wept quietly.
‘Mircea, tomorrow we raise camp and move towards Kuslat. From there we will move towards Srebrenica. Have you heard of Srebrenica?’
‘Yes, Sire. Isn’t it an old Roman town, fabled for its mines of silver? It will make us wealthy. The troops speak only of this.’
‘Hasn’t Zvornik offered sufficient for their needs?’ inquired Vlad.
‘My Lord, the city is small, and we are 5,000,’ Mircea answered.
‘Yes, you’re right. Tomorrow I’ll lead the army to Kuslat. But take 150 riders, disguise them as Turks, and take them to Srebrenica. Tell the garrison commander there that the Christians have been defeated and withdrawn. On market day, we’ll surround the city walls. Then strike fear in the hearts of the people and open the city gates.’
‘And what says Monsignor Rangoni?’ The expression on Vlad’s narrow face showed his distaste for the Papal Legate accompanying the expedition who had proven difficult from the very beginning.
‘He has a delicate constitution, Sire, and the reality of war troubles him,’ Mircea’s sarcasm was evident. ‘He tried to stop us from plundering the Christians, and he got angry over the death of the schismatic priest. But now he’s drunk, and I sent a Turkish boy to his tent.’
‘What about you? Have you taken your fill of pleasure?’ Vlad wore a sinister grin on his face.
‘Sire, can man ever satiate himself?’ Mircea answered, grinning back.
Vlad laughed again, his green eyes surveying the ruined girl. ‘Take her. Give her to your men.’ His smile was now vicious. ‘When they’re done, have her join the others on the stakes.’
‘With pleasure, Sire.’ Mircea rose to leave.
‘Mircea, stay with me a little longer,’ Vlad grabbed Mircea’s blouse. ‘Within these hills lies a power dark and terrible. It’s in the mists… it draws me closer,’ he smiled darkly as he sipped from the goblet. ‘It calls and nourishes me.’ A red droplet ran from the corner of his mouth, down his chin.
‘When we descend on Srebrenica our victory shall be complete and the bards will praise the name o
‘Yes, Sire,’ Mircea nodded.
‘My dear Mircea,’ the expression on Vlad’s face grew suddenly distant and his eyes clouded as though covered in the valley’s swirling mists. ‘We will leave here changed men. I feel it. And the Order of the Dragon will finally accept me as it did my father.’
‘Yes, my Lord,’ Mircea answered. ‘The Order will indeed accept you, and the world will never forget your name, nor that of your father. May the house of Dracul and his son Dracula stand forever as a token to posterity of your power and might and greatness.’
A LETTER FROM A DISTANT SHORE
San Diego: Late August 1991
He arrived five minutes late for the start of the first day of class, and when he entered the students in the lecture hall were fidgeting and talking loudly. From the doorway at the back he surveyed the crowded room and twitched his nose slightly, catching the acrid musk of meat-fed bodies, the sharp jolt of Eucalyptus oil, tanning lotion and sea salt, all blended with odors of newness: new paint, new carpet and new furniture. Hazy late-morning sunlight flooded through the south-facing windows, spreading a sense of relaxed cheer. After a moment’s pause, he sauntered briskly down the steps to the front of the hall, placed a battered leather briefcase on the table, removed a folder and laid it on the podium, followed by a stack of papers.