Now I Rise Page 101

“But the children.” Nicolae’s voice was as empty as a boyar’s promise.

“You said you would follow me to the ends of the earth.”

“God’s wounds, Lada,” he whispered, shaking his head. “Someday you will go further than I can follow.” He let go of her arm, then grabbed Toma’s body and dragged it from the room.

She had done what was necessary. She watched as each body was removed. She would mark their passing, and acknowledge their unwilling sacrifice. Because with each body they drew closer to her goal. She clutched her locket so tightly that her fingers ached.

She was a dragon. She was a prince. She was the only hope Wallachia had of ever prospering.

And she would do whatever it took to get there.



To Lada Dracul, Vaivode of Wallachia, Beloved Sister,

Constantinople has fallen. Mehmed is sultan, emperor, caesar of Rome, the new Alexander. He has united East and West in his new capital. As his vassal, I ask your presence to celebrate his victory and to negotiate new terms for Wallachia’s taxes and Janissary contributions.

He wishes to see you, as do I. I think of you often, and wonder whether I chose right after all. Please come. Mehmed will offer you good terms, and I dearly wish to spend time with you. I have much to talk about with you.

Your visit is eagerly anticipated.

With all my love, and the official order of the sultan, emperor, and caesar of Rome,

Radu Pasha



To Radu, my brother,

I do not acknowledge your new title, nor Mehmed’s. Tell the lying coward I send no congratulations. He sent none to me when I took my throne in spite of him.

You did not choose right.

Tell Mehmed Wallachia is mine.

With all defiance,

Lada Dracul, Prince of Wallachia