The Real Story?
Changing Fate: In reality (or Castlevania reality), the real story of Count Dracula extends back almost another 400 years, well before the birth of afore-chronicled Vlad Tepes. "How or why is this possible?" you wonder. It's a rather bizarre series of events that led to the creation of Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, whose overarching tale only served to muddle the waters of a storyline whose oceans were already murky. You see: There was once a man named Koji Igarashi who only dabbled in the Castlevania series until earning his stripes en route to playing a considerable role in the creation of the 1997 PlayStation classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It was under his direction that released with the game was a user manual that described Count Dracula to be an "estimated 800 years old."
Well, Symphony of the Night's placement in the official timeline is 1797, which if we do the math would land Dracula's birth sometime in the early 11th century; this in no way parallels the birth of the real-life Vlad Tepes, who was born in 1431, nor does it lend itself to convince us that the series' character, who they most certainly recognize as "Vlad Tepes," is one in the same. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that someone messed up. So what did Koji, who a few years later took full control as the series' director, do? Did he ignore it, like they usually do with "facts" mentioned in manuals, or did he simply correct what was then misinformation? Why, no--he of course rallied the troops and created an entire game to justify the manual's description! Thus came Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, which introduced us to the troupe of Leon Belmont and Mathias Cronqvist, whose fractured friendship would come to define the cycle that would continue for centuries.
The Separation: Now before we tell their tale, we must first understand, as much as it pains us, that the logical connection between Vlad Tepes, as described in Stoker's novel, and the series' counterpart is lost with the introduction of Mathias Cronqvist. Whereas Stoker's Vlad Tepes was a 15th-century crusader who lost his wife, Elisabetha, to suicide then died and became a vampire as the result of denouncing God, Mathias is an 11th-century crusader who lost his wife, Elisabetha, to an unspecified sudden death and then abandoned humanity in a similar fashion. Therefore, the previous chapter, The Living Days, is only a stand-alone account of Vlad Tepes, the real-life Romanian figure who inspired the fictional character Count Dracula, and it will remain in honor of the main inspiration behind this series.
Right now, it's time to tell the real tale of Dracula, Castlevania's perennial antagonist.
How It All Started
It was 1094, the very start of a series of medieval military campaigns that would become to be known throughout Europe as the Christian Crusades. Jerusalem, the largest city and capital of Israel, had come under Muslim rule, and it was the intent of the Catholic Church and its Pope to recapture what they considered to be the Sacred Holy Land. The Crusades were concurrent with the Gregorian Reforms, a campaign launched by the Catholic Church, and specifically Pope Gregory VII, to return to the clergy traditional values and to create a single society under which the entirety of people would find rule under God and a universal idea of the Church.
The reforms were necessary because the current system began to decay; monarchies began to weaken as local feudal lords grew in power. The knights, who were the sworn protectors, fought to defend the people and their land and to restore order in the name of God. Though, due to the rise of cynicism, the yearning for independence, and a general distrust of the Church and its ways, chaos only spread as rival families continued to contend for power where it was available; this was done, in bloody fashion, at the expense of the knights who wished only to defend them. Thus the Catholic Church, ever-expanding, instituted the Gregorian Reforms, a period in which the knights were elevated to the status of "protectors of the peace and the Church." The knights, who valued courage and honor, proudly battled against heretics; some formed brotherhoods and companies who fought together bonded by only a sacred trust.
It was during this time where a legendary duo staked its claim. Leon Belmont and Mathias Cronqvist, two knights who were thought to be invincible, secured victory after victory using combat abilities and tactical solutions that were second to none. Bound by an old friendship based completely on trust, Leon and Mathias fought bravely and never once suffered defeat on the field of battle. Still, their success was not indicative; due to the reforms and the burgeoning Crusades, the knights were spread thin as the Church's enemies and opposition only began to multiply. Fate dealt Mathias a cruel blow when returning from a successful campaign he learned that his wife, Elisabetha, had perished suddenly. Though repeatedly consoled by Leon, who continued to fight bravely in his friend's absence, and his many other allies, Mathias' increasing grief led to a bedridden status; troubling, too, for Leon, was the sudden appearance of monsters, who were infesting his domain. Because the Church would not sanction any battles against foes not deemed to be its enemy, nor would it grant him his request to sortie, Leon was handcuffed.
One night, Mathias struggled out of bed to relay to Leon a message; somehow, in his diseased state, he had come to have explicit knowledge of circumstances surrounding recent events: He revealed that the monsters' appearance was tied to a mysterious vampire, Walter Bernhard, who he knew resided within a castle blanketed by the forest called "Eternal Night." More distressing were the words in following, which revealed that Sara Trantoul, Leon's betrothed, had been kidnapped and taken to that very castle. With no other choice, never questioning his friend's unexplainable cognizance of such events, Leon renounced his title as lord and baron in order to rescue his betrothed without committing heresy.
What Leon didn't know was that by running off to confront the vampire, he was unwittingly playing a role in a scheme devised by the newly emboldened forces of evil. Sometime after learning about Elisabetha's death, Mathias initiated one final solo campaign: To locate and put to use the three sacred stones (the Ebony Stone, the Philosopher's Stone, and the Crimson Stone) that when combined would realize alchemy's goal: Eternal life for he who gathered them. Within this eternal life, he would live on to forever curse God for taking away from him his beloved after he had spent his entire life fighting in His name. Mathias' journey quickly landed the Philosopher's stone, but the procuring of the two others would prove problematic. For one, the Crimson Stone was lost, and, more urgently, the Ebony Stone was in the possession of Walter, against whom he stood no chance. As his grief over his loss consumed him more and more, Mathias, furthermore failing in his campaign, began to pass from this world; it was then when the former Knight of the Church found a loophole and struck a deal with Death (and through this liaison an even greater source of evil), who at present was allied to Walter; he had come to reap a fallen soul but under this condition revealed to Mathias an even more desired path to eternal life: If they could somehow extract and collect a vampire soul and use it to augment the stones' power, they could harness it as part of an unholy rebirth. Death, apparently unconvinced of Walter's long-term usefulness, knew just the subject. Death would further assist his new partner by locating the Crimson Stone, and the duo would leave the locating of the Ebony Stone to Leon, who Mathias would dupe into battling and destroying Walter, the stone's possessor. Eternal life combined with vampire powers, Mathias could live on to carry out his grudge and take it to the next level by using his new powers to punish all of God's creations!
While the plot was genius, of which everyone knew Mathias was capable, there were certain stumbling blocks that Mathias couldn't have predicted. For one, Mathias would always regret passing down orally the art of alchemy to Rinaldo Gandolfi, who provided Leon the Whip of Alchemy that would later become the Vampire Killer. Mathias certainly hoped for the death of Sara Trantoul at the hands of Walter, so that he could gain his friend's sympathy and perhaps have in eternal life a powerful ally, but he wouldn't have wished it had he known that her death would serve in the creation of said Vampire Killer, which had the power to destroy vampires and even divine beings.
Still, the main goal was achieved. Leon breached the castle, discovered its secrets, and driven by his betroth's death vanquished Walter Bernhard. Death, who was by then successful in collecting the Crimson Stone, showed up just in time to betray Walter and extract his soul into said stone and hand it over to the also-present Mathias, victorious in his campaign and pleased with his friend's efforts. Mathias explained to Leon that Elisabetha's death had hit harder than anyone could possibly know; he surely blamed God, whose name in which he had always fought, for her death, and he would thus curse Him forever by procuring eternal life. "For if limited life is God's decree," he said, "then I shall defy it!"
Mathias truly believed that Elisabetha would have wanted it this way. Leon argued that the Mathias he knew would never marry such a woman. Still, Mathias expected Leon to understand his plight, for he, too, had unfairly lost someone he loved. Leon conceded that he did strike down Walter with a sense of hatred, but he did it with the intention that others might live, which is what Sara wanted; Leon was sure that Elisabetha would have wanted the same. Not amused, the stoic Mathias gave a disappointed farewell, using his new powers to assume bat form and exit via an open window. "Death--he's all yours," he ordered before parting. Using the divine power of the Vampire Killer, Leon overcame the fearsome Death and had for now restored peace to the land. Though, with an ill-intentioned Mathias lurking, how long would it last?
Two friends, spurned by polar agendas, thus set in motion a cycle that would last for eternity. In a twisted way responsible for giving birth to an immortal nemesis, Leon would have to take on the responsibility of equipping descendants with the means to counter such a threat; mainly, he would have to pass on to his bloodline--a suitor worthy--the Vampire Killer whip and the mystic weapons, as would all future heroes. As for Mathias: He fled to foreign land, where he went into hiding and continued to curse God. He eventually named himself Lord of the Vampires, the King of the Night. The years before the next meeting would pass slowly and quietly but with finality, for two souls would only find intermission to a play with no end.
In the meantime, Mathias was content to wait around, patiently, for the return of Elisabetha, who he was sure would one day be reincarnated so that they might reunite and continue forever their union.
After a period of a few hundred years, Mathias, by now having fully realized the scope of his powers, comes out from his hiding and begins his next campaign: The genocide of humanity. His murderous exploits over time earn him the name Count Dracula, which at this point translates into "Son of the Devil" (as in the ultimate evil and Dracula's true master). The battle lines are drawn, and a showdown is surely imminent. How would he overcome the odds and defeat the Belmonts, who were waiting steadfast? Only the devil had the answer.
Chapter 3: The Devil's Purchase | Back to Chapter 1