I often have very powerful dreams, nightmares really. I usually sleep straight through them, recalling the details the following morning.
A few weeks before the Christmas holidays I had a rather intense and nightmarish dream. Lucid dreaming is not uncommon for me, be it a nightmare of being chased by tyrannosauruses, lost in a rugged mountainous terrain and being pursued by headhunters, or truly bizarre dreams of watching myself and my family being eaten by an alligator then becoming omnipotent and making what could only be called a series of very unwise choices thereafter (see I Had a Weird Dream byauthor.)
In this more recent dream I got use of my recently acquired Canadian Cultural Access Pass to view the vaults of a major museum in an after-hours educational consultation. I was shown an object that very few people have ever seen. Only a handful of people in the entire world know of it. Its very existence has been kept secret. The object was “The Sword of Vlad.”
Vlad the Impaler
Vlad III, a Prince of Wallachia was a hero in his day for the resistance against the Ottoman Empire and their expansionism. Historians remember him mainly for his harsh laws and unusually cruel punishment which he freely and lavishly bestowed upon his enemies. Those whom harbored, protected or aided his enemies in any capacity were equally dealt with. Demon to the world but patriotic hero to his nation, most of the world would come to know him mainly through Bram Stoker’s 1897 fictional tale “Dracula.”
Vlad III, also known in Romanian as “?epe?” (“impaler”) used many horrific punishments including a medieval Transylvania torture whereby fallen or captured enemies were impaled with long poles and erected high over the battlefield. Often, the enemy soldiers were still quite alive.
Vlad would capture their warm blood in a bowel as it dripped and squirted from their punctured body and used it to dip his bread in as he sat and ate after a battle.
Once, he forced the man he believed to have taken part in the murder of his brother to read his eulogy over an open grave before making him climb into it.
Next, he gave the order to impale thousands of civilians whom he said had sheltered the rival. Vlad was evil, no doubt about it.
A Very Special Sword
This museum had an artifact; a sword that has provenance to Vlad the Impaler. I was shown this sword and my first observation was that of a dried and shrunken mummified hand still griping the hilt!
My first thought was “What the hell?!”
The hand of a man and about half of his forearm was still attached to the sword’s handle with the sharp and shattered tips of both the radius and ulna bones (the two long bones in the forearm) protruding several inches beyond the gray leather flesh. –The arm had been crudely slashed and sliced in life all the way to the bone. The long bones appeared to have been bent until they both snapped and shattered like a green branch. This arm was not severed cleanly in battle by any sharp implement of war or even after death; something else even uglier had taken place.
At my frightened and inquisitive gaze, the curator of this basement crypt held up a hand to prevent my questions. From there, he began to tell a gruesome story behind this grotesque artifact...
A Most Cruel Weapon
Vlad had commissioned a very special sword to be made for his personal sidearm. Made of the toughest multi-folded steel by the finest Oriental sword makers of the time, this blade was exceptional. The blade was by far stronger and lighter than any of the finest samurai sword ever made. It must have taken years to complete with centuries of metallurgical skills to draw upon.
The hilt of this sword was an artwork itself. Made from the finest high-carbon alloys, harder than the best tungsten and fully clad in braided gold and silver filaments. Braided and hammered textures gave the hilt and hand-guard a comfortable and secure feeling when justly wielded by the able warrior. The grip itself (although mostly hidden by the grey mummified hand still clenching it) had a dozen wide-mouthed gargoyle faces with large red ruby eyes peering ominously out from partially-closed eyelids. The faces looked wizened but oh-so evil with the lipid depths of red.
This sword had a terrible hidden secret; it was death to anyone whom did not know how to handle it correctly.
Always sheathed in its scabbard and the tip always pointing downward, it was fairly safe to the wearer. But once withdrawn, the hand wielding it had to drench the blade fully in blood within seconds or risk death themselves. The shiny steel blade was hollow and concealed a long cylindrical ceramic ramrod, a gravity-actuated mechanism.
The cylinder was always nested toward the tip of the blade (hence, the always downwardly-pointing tip) and upon tasting warm blood on the blade when thrust into a body, this internal plunger would remain locked in place.
Thousands ofnearly invisible human hair-sized holes, each hand-hammered by the sword's creator, were pierced into into the blade allowing the blood of the vanquished to ooze inside of the hair-thin follicles and affect the ceramic activation rod. It caused it to swell ever so slightly and lock it safely into place until the sword was properly cleaned and dried after use.
It was an elegant design and superlative model of natural physics that was a hundred or more years ahead of its time.
But if the blade were extracted from the scabbard and not immediately drenched in an enemy’s blood, the cylinder which is normally bone dry will easily slide back and forth between the tip of the sword and the hilt. Anyone foolish enough to withdraw the weapon without feeding the blade with blood would be in for a nasty surprise!
Typically, one might hold the sword by the hilt and lift the blade skyward to examine the jewels of the hilt. The blade, now pointing toward the sky, would allow the internal ceramic cylinder to collapse via gravity toward the hilt and strike an actuation pin. This mechanism in turn caused dozens of needle-like teeth of the deadly scorpion fish to snap outward though the smiling mouths of the hilt’s gargoyles, firmly engaging into the flesh of the hand, fingers and bone. The pain of being bitten on the hand by a dozen scorpion fishes all at once was excruciating. The effects were almost as immediate.
The anti-coagulant properties of the venom still present inside of the hollow scorpion fish teeth caused the blood to flow blood freely. This fills the hollow teeth and hilt. The teeth contain a toxin which causes the muscles in their victim to spasm and twitch, clenching the hilt even tighter and pumping even more blood into the hilt.
The blood of the hapless victim fills the hollow sword handle and flows up past the internal mechanism and begins to ooze out of the sword through those thousands of hair-thin holes.
The sword of Vlad bleeds. It bleeds -you!
One can only watch in horror as the once shiny steel blade of the sword turns brilliant red as it sweats your blood.
What Happened is This:
In the course of time, someone had gotten ahold of Vlad’s terrible sword and these events unfolded; they withdrew the blade and were awestruck by its beauty. They held it upright to admire the preciousness of materials and workmanship. The sword bit them in the hand and they began to bleed dry through the blade.
In the terrifying minutes to follow the victim realized that losing his arm is the only recourse for possible life. The man whose hand we were examining had one choice and minutes to make it; to amputate his as-yet still living arm.
A broken pottery was found lying near where the sword was found. A century later, this shard still had traces of this man’s blood on it. The man had shattered the vase and used a shard like a knife, crudely circumcising the flesh of his forearm all the way to the bone.
To remedy the problem of the forearm bones he entangled his painful and rapidly dying arm into the metal ironwork of the master fireplace and, for the lack of a better descriptor, pulled like hell.
He may have survived this day but he left the sword and his arm where it fell. So frightened of this weapon, the local people when they discovered it laying there in the fireplace, left it alone. It remained unmoved and untouched for many, many decades, so powerful was their fear of this weapon.
I awoke from my nightmare with a painful right arm about halfway between my wrist and elbow, just about where the man in my nightmare had amputated his arm. The nightmare was over. A glance at the bedroom clock revealed that I still had several more hours before sunrise.
Oh great. It might still be a long night, alone with my nightmares...