Chapter 11: In the Dark of Night
"Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good."
Large hands gripped Lisa's arms, pushing as much as steering her forward through the streets. In the darkness she'd been plunged into, the ground became treacherously uneven, causing her to often stumble. Her escorts roughly hoisted her back to her feet, indifferent to her pleas that she be allowed to see where she was walking. Rain seeped through her cloak and her skirt clung, clammy and cold, against her skin.
She lost her footing as they began to climb steps.
"Up!" a harsh voice commanded.
"It is only right that the witch should fall in defeat before the house of the Lord," she heard behind her. Despite the ache radiating from her ankle, she grew alert at the man's words.
We must have arrived at the church.
She listened to her surroundings acutely.
Perhaps someone inside will speak up and stop this madness.
In her mind a wild, desperate hope: that the people she had aided and worked with would speak up and come to her succor.
A heavy door opened and she was ushered inside.
"Here," someone called out.
She was paraded down what she suspected was the church's nave. Her head turned to and fro. Hushed whispers erupted around them as they passed.
"Isn't that the healer?"
"Is it? But she was here earlier, tending to our wounded!"
"Where are you taking her?"
"Lisa!" she heard a call further down, closer to the altar. She recognized the voice: it was Sypha, Mircea's wife. "Lisa!"
A small tumult broke forth. The hands clasping her released her for a moment and she took advantage of the oversight to shake off the hood. With further effort she was able to dislodge her gag with her tongue and spit out the rag on the ground. The gloominess of the old church greeted her ominously. She had barely gotten her bearings when she saw that both Syphas had been barred from approaching her by the bruisers escorting her through the church. Liviu stood behind the women; on his earnest face, an expression of confusion.
"You must have made a mistake! This woman is innocent!" the youngest Sypha cried out.
"Don't take her away" Sypha's mother pleaded. "What harm has she done? She is an angel- helping tend to the wounded!"
A few townsfolk began to assemble beside them.
"It is true! She has been treating the injured and the sick."
"She is wise in the healing arts," someone added in a tone of awe.
"See? This must be a mistake," the older Sypha continued artfully. "Release her to us." She approached the soldiers, but they narrowed their circle around Lisa.
Another figure loudly entered the church moments after them. The hooded figure caught the exchange, noting the growing agitation among the people.
"An angel?" he declared in a firm voice. The hood dropped and the conjurer who'd been present at her capture strolled up to Lisa until they were face to face once more. "You are right that among us is one who consorts with powers that transcend our world's...But she does not evoke the forces of heaven!" he accused. "Behold: before you stands a known witch!" his voice flooded the church, echoing through the large room. "Her wisdom? Trickery. Illusion. A calculation to secure your trust." He turned about the room, addressing the group of both healers and the few wounded who were able to stand and listen attentively. "Her so-called 'cures' may actually hasten your demise!" he warned.
A few cries and gasps rose from the crowd and Lisa shook her head vehemently, incensed.
"It is not true! Everything I did, all that I shared is no supernatural, hermetic secret! It is honest medicine-founded on solid scientific principles," she began.
"Name your master, witch!" he bellowed angrily.
Lisa's lips quivered. She'd been outwitted. There was no way she could tell the truth and not condemn herself before the crowd.
"I see you dare not say his name in this holy house of God!" he continued, satisfied, taking advantage of her silence.
Still…that stubborn spark, that defiant spirit, rose within her.
"Know this: I have many masters," Lisa countered boldly. The conjurer faltered briefly before eyeing her with disdain. "All those who came before me and dispelled ignorance and superstition with knowledge!" At his signal the soldiers approached menacingly. "Hippocrates! Agnodike!" she declaimed. "Dioscorides, Maimonides, Hildegard of Bingen-"
Once again, the coarse hands encircled her upper arms, jostling her off her feet.
"A litany of pagans and heathens who turned away from the true God? Those are your masters?" He addressed the crowd again. "She cannot conceal her corruption to save herself, even!"
He glanced at the altar, long stripped of its riches at the threat of the Ottomans.
"Do not fear for your souls: I have secured the aid of the good brothers of Sfântu Gheorghe. They will pray for the salvation of all who have been touched by the witch's black magic," the conjurer announced. Three monks quickly stepped out from behind the group of soldiers toward the people. At the sight of the holy men, voices in the crowd issued mournful pleas for their blessings. Lisa could sense the fear in the people's faces as they cried out for the monks' attention. Her expression hardened.
"Why would you add to these people's suffering? Why would you burden them with the threat of damnation?"
She was yanked toward the altar.
"Take her to the crypt. Cosmin awaits," he muttered impatiently to one of the men.
"Where are you taking her?" Sypha called out, despite the upheaval in the church.
"Those who stand in the way of the Church will be considered her enemy," the conjurer warned warily, eyeing the Speakers. "This woman has been accused of performing witchcraft and consorting with the devil."
"It is a mistake!" Sypha continued valiantly. "Please let her go! Look at her! She is innocent!"
She was unceremoniously ignored as one of the monks swung a censer and another sprayed holy water into the crowd. The third pulled off desperate hands that grabbed at the hem of their long robes.
Lisa turned her head to look at the Speakers, helpless, trying to hold them in her gaze for as long as she could, clinging to the bit of kinship she'd found before she was plunged further in hopelessness. Sypha grasped her daughter's hand, her serene expression now ashen and pained, as the soldiers marched Lisa down a set of steps leading to a crypt beneath the church.
Just as she began to descend into the narrow passageway, a loud crash resounded behind her.
To her surprise, Liviu breached part of the modest balustrade, knocking it to the ground and rapidly drew nearer to the landing.
"Let her go!" Liviu demanded. "God does not will vulgar persecution!"
A flash of silver caught her gaze as one of the soldiers unsheathed his sword.
"Liviu! Don't!" Lisa cried out.
Before she could issue further warning, the soldier intercepted his path and plunged his blade forcefully through the robust Speaker.
Liviu's expression crumpled into breathless bewilderment. His eyes grew wide and he staggered backward, shaking, until a filament of blood began to spill from his lips.
"Liviu!" Lisa screamed, a surge of despair possessing her. She tried to wrest herself from the grasp of her captors with such might, she managed to steal a few steps toward the agonizing man before she was seized again.
She searched the crowd for the healers she had worked shoulder to shoulder with. Surely someone would intervene and offer aid.
"Remember: those who seek to aid a witch risk far worse punishment than death," the conjurer warned smugly as the soldier sheathed his bloodied sword. "Who would compromise their immortal soul?"
No one dared to move even as Liviu's large frame lay on the ground gasping feebly.
"Please! Let me see him!" Lisa pleaded, as she was wrested away. "Let me tend to him!" she begged. "Show some mercy! Please! Let me help him and I will go peacefully!"
"As if you presented a great challenge," he scoffed. Yet, the soldiers escorting her past the iconostasis hesitated. "Are you considering her request?" the conjurer fumed at them. "Go!"
The last sounds Lisa heard from the church as the heavy stone slab sealed the small opening above them were the disconsolate wails from both Syphas.
"How can you do such a thing? How can you call yourselves men of God?" her voice quavered.
"Why is she still talking? Who removed her gag?" the conjurer complained. A faint glow emanated from the bottom of the steps. "Men should not sit and listen to a woman . . . even if she says admirable things, or even saintly things, that is of little consequence, since it came from the mouth of a woman," he huffed.
Lisa recognized Origen of Alexandria's vitriol and fell quiet at the implied threat.
The crypt was a musty, shadowy place despite the hundreds of votives burning along the stone ground..
"Go and guard the entrance to the crypt," the conjurer ordered his soldiers. "I will take care of things from here on." With that, he unceremoniously tugged Lisa along with him toward the further end of the crypt.
"Cosmin!" he called out. "I have her."
Lisa recognized Cosmin as the younger of the two conjurers and found him on his knees, busily etching something onto the floor.
At the sound of their approaching footsteps, the younger man dropped the pouch of ashes he'd been pouring and tracing out a series of circles and lines with. Bleary-eyed, he blinked for a few moments before turning around to gape at her.
"Is this— ?," he stated, in a tone she could only classify as awed.
"Aye. It was as we suspected; she was hiding among the Speakers."
"By all the saints, Bogdan— do you realize what you've done?" Cosmin raised a slender hand to shield his mouth.
The conjurer cast a wary glance at her before addressing his companion.
"She is just an ordinary woman. As far as I can see, she possesses no great ability or skill." He clucked his tongue loudly.
Cosmin stared uneasily.
"Are you sure this is she? The one who we saw with the Dragon?"
"This is she! The one and the same!" A surge of irritation compelled Bogdan to turn Lisa's head to the side brusquely. She grimaced, pained, as the large meaty hand secured her head in an uncomfortable position. Cosmin drew closer, interested. "See? She bears his mark."
The younger man grew agitated and began to pat his pockets beneath his robe. After a moment, he retrieved a small object.
"Hold her down if she should try to flee."
Lisa flinched, but Bogdan positioned himself behind her like a pillar, placing a hefty arm across her collarbone while the other hand took a firmer grip of her head by clawing into her hair and yanking her head down the side further. She tried to shake herself free, fearing a knife or some similar weapon, but out of the corner of her eyes she could make out what Cosmin brought up closer to her: a silver reliquary cross pendant, its large suspension loop and pins securely pinched between the man's sooty fingers.
She wondered why he was wielding the cross so tentatively; both men observed her reaction as he dangled it before her face curiously.
..Have you loaded yourself with silver, crosses, and garlic in superstitious fear…
She remembered Țepeș' mocking distrust when they had first met. In such close proximity to both men, she could discern a mix of unpleasant odors-sweat, grime, and the acrid, peaty stench of garlic cloves.
"Hmm. She is not cowed," Cosmin remarked.
"Press it into her skin," the other man encouraged him.
When she squirmed, Bogan secured her firmly.
Cosmin slipped the cross over her forehead, eyes, and rested it for a moment over her lips. She tried to evade his obtrusive touch, but was held in place by Bogdan's unyielding grip.
"No reaction. Not even the smallest blister."
"There!" Bogdan persisted. "Place it over the mark!"
Lisa felt the metal glide down her jaw to her neck. She worried for a moment that something catastrophic would happen at the cross' contact against her flesh. But to her relief and the men's disappointment, nothing happened.
"It is so very faint," Cosmin lamented. "How can you be sure that it is the Dragon's mark?"
"It was enough to trip my ward. Is that proof enough?"
Bogdan finally released her, shoving her aside. She sat further away, her hands still tightly bound behind her.
"I wonder," Cosmin muttered.
"You are questioning my competence to identify this curse?" Bogdan crossed his arms. Cosmin scratched his head.
"No, no. It is not that. This just defies what I know."
"This is not some shrewd Scholomance initiate we are up against," Bogdan reminded him. "This is the Dragon. We have set out to accomplish what no other man has ever achieved."
Lisa stared at the strange circle, her mind reeling from how she had been sucked into that eldritch vortex so completely unintentionally. She heard the men bicker behind her as her eyes remained fixed on Cosmin's work: a large circle, overlapped with a square; smaller circles inside the square were decorated with six-pointed stars, coarsely drawn crosses surrounded with tiny dots, which she recognized symbolized Christ's puncture wounds, and various names written forward and backward in large Greek letters.
So-called witchcraft, she recognized. These men shamelessly accuse me of a crime they are guilty of.
"Are you sure we will be safe?" Cosmin murmured.
"Remember what Psellus wrote. The Dragon is Lucifugous—he fears light."
Cosmin tossed his arms into the air.
"Psellus! Please, Bodgan-now you sound like a Scholomance upstart! Psellus, master of the obvious! We do not need to know what sort of demon the Dragon is-only how to defeat him-"
Bogdan raised a warning finger at him.
"No-not defeat. Harness his power. Subjugate him."
"I think we may be in over our heads," the younger men lamented, leaning against the wall.
Bogdan cast him a withering glare.
"I have worked too hard to have the Ottomans disrupt everything. Do you feel like starting over? Wasting precious time discerning who is friend and who is foe?"
"I might prefer that than risking the wrath of-"
"Do not be foolish, Cosmin. We must hold on to what we have secured. The clergy holds greater and greater power over the lords and the Church grows ever less tolerant of those who…How shall I put it? Endeavor to explore Creation's darker and outer provinces…"
Lisa cast a furtive glance toward the other end of the crypt. Perhaps if she could take advantage of the gloominess of the room and the men's ongoing argument, she might be able to make her way up the steps. There would be guards to contend with at the entrance, but she was no longer able to contain the panicked impulse to flee at once.
"Look at what happened to the Belmonts!" Bogdan continued. Cosmin grumbled, but nodded. "It didn't matter that they employed their knowledge and power for the sake of Christendom and to fight the forces of evil-they were excommunicated all the same! We must tread carefully, secure our supporters and patrons wisely. You know how long it takes, the effort, the sacrifice...The Ottomans must not succeed."
The older man dropped a heavy hand on his fellow conjurer's shoulder.
"These are difficult times for those of us who practice these arts. Do not be mistaken, friend. This is an unabashed bid for power by the Church. Those who do not wield our gifts seek to nevertheless declare themselves greater than we, only by proxy of their God."
Lisa backed away, inching quietly and slowly toward the stairs, her eyes fixed on the pair further away.
"At the end of it all, the Dragon is merely a conduit—a force to be subdued. And you know what those forces are. They are, in essence, elemental, and like the elements, can be bound to our will."
"Why the Dragon, though?" Cosmin protested morosely. The heel of Lisa's hand hit the first rough stone step.
"Because he is the most powerful. He walks among us," Bogan uttered gravely. "So let us see this circle of yours. Did you evoke all the names properly?"
Cosmin appeared to revive somewhat, crouching over his work with Bogan.
In the distraction, an opportunity. Lisa crawled up the stairs backwards, slowly, shrouded in shadows.
Just as she contemplated the stone slab and how she was ever going to unseal the entrance, she heard a small commotion below.
"Where is she?"
"She is gone!"
"She is a witch after all!" Cosmin cried out fretfully.
"Stop that—she is around here somewhere. There is no way she could have escaped this crypt."
She took those words as the threat they were and frantically began to push against the slab with her shoulder. Meanwhile, the men slipped in and out of different side vaults in the crypt.
"No. Not here either?"
"Where could she be hiding?"
"It is best you reveal yourself, whore," Bogdan called out in a sinister tone.
Perhaps curious about the movement against the slab, the soldiers above began to slide it open. Lisa readied herself to spring up and run. She planned to use surprise in her favor and take advantage of the confusion her unexpected appearance would evoke. It was a poor plan that reeked of failure, but if there was even the glint of a chance to escape…She remained focused despite the roar of rage she heard approaching her below. As the slab finally shifted, Lisa made the motion to lunge forward, but her momentum was interrupted by a fierce cuffing of her ankle. She was pulled downward, losing her footing and crashing heavily over the stone steps. Her vision darkened for a terrible moment when her forehead cracked against the stone. A sharp pain radiated from her chest and the pain only grew more excruciating as she gasped for air. The hand around her ankle did not relent—it yanked her down, the friction against the coarse stone making the skin on her temple and cheek raw.
"Seal that immediately!" Bogdan's angry voice boomed upward. "And only open it when either myself or Cosmin tell you to! We are dealing with a witch and any interference could be deadly!" Lisa tried to push herself into a sitting position, but the pain was too excruciating: it grew stronger with every movement, every breath.
I must have fractured a rib, she realized. Her face burned and stung where the skin had been scraped.
The slab covered the opening and she was enshrouded in the crypt's darkness again.
"Get up!" Bogdan roared, gripping her by the arm and forcing her to her feet. The sudden yank caused her to twist her torso and she screamed from the pain.
"Easy!" Cosmin protested. "She is injured!"
"Then you better hurry and perform that damned ritual already!"
Tears coursed down Lisa's face and she could tell as they dropped , even in the dimness of the chamber, that they were tinged with blood.
"The Dragon may be more willing to aid us if we keep his servant alive," Cosmin scolded him.
"Initially, perhaps…But I have no intention to let him dictate any terms! All we need is for him to agree to fight the Ottomans. Should he even think of coming here, he will be entrapped."
"Are you sure?" Cosmin wondered in a weaker voice, after a brief silence. Lisa hated how vulnerable she was right then—teetering side to side in Bogdan's vise-like grip, her pain escalating with each tug and yank.
"Yes! Now: let us begin the summoning ritual."
"We must open the first portal. We must burn the first offering—something to bind the Dragon to this place."
Even in her disoriented state, Lisa understood that Bogdan had released her. She collapsed on her knees with a pathetic cry. He unsheathed his dagger and reaching down, unceremoniously yanked back her braid. His blade sat practically against her neck and she steeled herself for the final blow, her heart heavy.
She thought of Țepeș.
I longed to see you again, she mourned.
Bogdan tugged the end of her braid until it was taut and with one fell swoop, chopped half of it off.
"Here!" He tossed the heavy bundle of hair at Cosmin. Cosmin missed the awkward toss and it fell to the ground.
Wordlessly, the man picked up and placed it inside the circle. With a long piece of kindling he set the braid aflame. Black smoke curled toward the crypt's ceiling, a sharp stench. She leaned forward in an attempt to shelter her eyes and nose from the acrid smoke.
"And now?" Cosmin asked weakly.
"Curb your fear, Cosmin. It has begun. Perform the ceremony."
"Are you sure?" The man continued to seek reassurance.
"Look at where we are! We are at Sfântu Gheorghe!"
Lisa's eyes obligatorily followed Bogdan's sweeping gesture toward the walls behind them.
Over an archway, in fading pigments was a fresco portraying an image she had seen throughout her life. In her childhood, it had been the source of curiosity and excitement. In adulthood, it had symbolized a life and time left behind. It was merely folklore and tradition. But right then, doubled over in pain, assailed by the stench of her own burning hair, the image acquired a tragic hue.
It was a painting depicting Saint George in full armor, on his horse, wielding his lance straight through a black dragon.
Despite the deep piercing pain that surfaced with every breath, she finally succumbed to her despair.
The men ignored her wracking sobs, standing before their circle, declaiming arcane verses of profane incantations.
It has all gone so wrong, she thought, remembering poor Liviu heaving on the church floor above. Killed. Because of her. For nothing. How I wish with all my heart this wasn't how it ended. She rolled to the side, lying on the dusty ground.
"Vlad Dracula Țepeș," she whispered so softly she could barely hear herself over the din the conjurers were making. "I do not know if you can hear me right now...But if you can, know this: I never wished for it to be this way. I wanted to see you, to speak to you, to understand what you had been trying to tell me all along. My life is forfeit, but if you can hear me, do not come to this place. These men have devised a trap for you. Do you understand? Do not come here. Please be safe."
She stared back at the Byzantine boggle-eyed saint and let her gaze land on the dragon, his expression fierce even in the throes of death.
"I so wished to see you again, Vlad," she murmured, shivering.
It was all he needed.
After trying without success to discern Lisa's precise location through the Speakers' dense charms as if peering out over a misty lake, catching only subtle flashes, at the uttering of his name the bond reignited. It was as if it had been drawn taut, stretching across the countryside. It was as clear as a summons.
He snarled at the burst of pain he felt alongside her, and the complete terror and sorrow that wracked her.
Even when facing the end, her thoughts were of others:
Guilt and remorse over a dead Speaker.
Her worry and concern for his own safety.
What did I expect? he stormed forth, stirring and rousing a swirl of primordial blackness in his wake. I should not have relented, should not have been swayed by Lisa's piety. I should have crushed those men like the cowards they are when I had the chance.
Something else caught his awareness—it was the inklings of an old spell. It was an intrusive, invasive one that clumsily clutched at him, wispily attempting to engulf him. He curled his lip in deep contempt, recognizing the feeble attempt at a summons and entrapment.
How dare they.
Who do they think they have chosen to match their wits and strength against?
Behind him, a burst of thunder rumbled: his rage incarnate.
The air wavered as if heat were rising and a tall black gateway materialized before him.
His eyes flickered with hate and he raised his hand, clenching it into a fist. The gateway collapsed, the echoes of an incantation fading as it did so.
Oh, we shall meet, he thought cruelly. You shall see me. Your efforts have not been in vain.
Cosmin dropped his arms, flummoxed.
"I don't understand."
Bogdan lowered his arms as well.
"Did we miss anything?"
"No. No." He approached a large tome sitting over a sepulcher and peered into it, briskly leafing through some of its pages. "It is as exactly described in the Liber incantationum."
Lisa turned her head feebly toward the men.
Good! It didn't work! She gathered with a twinge of satisfaction. Let this all end here.
Her mind relentlessly sounded the alarm: A fractured rib-or ribs?-if the fracture is severe enough... Haemothorax. Other blood vessels damaged? It was hard to say. Her thoughts grew sluggish. A concussion—she was sure of it. The pain, the blurred vision, the nausea…
"I felt it, Bogdan-we summoned the gateway. But then…"
"I felt it too," Bogdan concurred. "It was gone suddenly."
They both stared at the book, troubled.
"Perhaps we need something stronger—for the Dragon such commonplace anchors might not be sufficient."
He turned, seeking Lisa on the floor.
"He is opiri. We snare him with blood."
Cosmin's head snapped up.
"Blood? A… sacrifice?"
"Yes...yes. That…It may be the answer."
Lisa closed her eyes tightly.
In the dark, a cold hand settled over her brow. It was jarring at first, but became soothing against her feverish skin—then something soft but prickly touched her forehead.
A dream, Lisa reasoned. It must be.
Sleep, a deep voice commanded gently, irresistibly, immersing her mind in peaceful silence and thick, blissful night.
If the chapter contains unpleasant passages, such as this one, guaranteed 5000% that I am going to drag my feet. Sorry for the delay.
Notes, notes, so many nerdy notes. If you look me up on AO3 under WaywardLass, where I crosspost, I have links to my sources. All the books I mention can be accessed online. Sorry I can't post them here-FFN makes it a nightmare to hyperlink anything.
Iconostasis: "a screen bearing icons, separating the sanctuary of many Eastern churches from the nave." (Google Dictionary)
Liber incantationum: This book, also known as the Munich Necromantic Manual, is THE grimoire of demonic and black magic rituals. It's dense and dark stuff—I mean, it is a step-by-step how-to for summoning demons and conducting necromancy! WTF, right? OF COURSE it has been scanned and made available online by none other than the Bayerische Staats Bibliothek, the Bavarian State Library.
I'll be honest with you guys: looking at the book unnerves me. If you're chicken like me, you can read Richard Kieckhefer's excellent Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer's Manual of the Fifteenth Century instead and let him deal with all the ghoulish stuff for you.
Opiri: While the concept of vampirism is an ancient one that hails back to the ancient world and the earliest civilizations, word 'vampire' is European and has roots in the Slavonic (scholar Brian Cooper wrote an article tracking the word's genealogy). Bogdan and Cosmin, being the pretentious occultist assholes they are, would have probably known the Old Church Slavonic term 'opiri' to describe what we know as the vampire.
Origen of Alexandria: Christian theologian from the patristic age: a fun time when Church theologians sought to put women in their place. Hint: it wasn't in the church or holding any role that gave them any agency in society. The quote here is from his Fragments on 1 Corinthians. He also says that women are the portals to hell and basically are the reason for God having to sacrifice Jesus. An epic mansplainer.
Psellus (Michael): "was a Byzantine Greek monk, savant, writer, philosopher, politician and historian. He was born in 1017 or 1018, and is believed to have died in 1078, although it has also been maintained that he remained alive until 1096." (Wikipedia). He wrote a book called De operatione daemonum; dialogus de energia seu operatione daemonum, aka: On the Operation of Daemons. It's a book that has been deemed as essential in interpreting esoteric texts such as The Key of Solomon. It is a text that Byzantine Greeks read to help preserve Ancient World beliefs, especially Egyptian, while also fueling a whole new genre of occultist literatur- grimoires- that would endure into the early Renaissance. Psellus basically categorizes all the different kinds of demons that exist. And now, thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can read it yourself! Amaze your friends! Astonish your relatives! Amuse your minions!
The Scholomance: Ok, I think this is really cool, because once upon a time I used to play World of Warcraft and there was a creepy, spooky dungeon called Scholomance. It was basically a haunted house and it was a lot of fun to run. At the time, I thought, "Weird name!", took my drops, and never thought about it. Later on, I found out there is a real world connection to the name. Turns out that: "The Scholomance (Romanian: Şolomanţă, Solomonărie) was a fabled school of black magic in Transylvania, which was run by the Devil." (Wikipedia) But, wait! There's MORE! Emily Gerard, a Scottish woman who learned about Transylvanian folk stories while stationed in the region with her Austrian husband wrote an article called "Transylvanian Superstitions" that elaborated on The Scholomance in the late 1800s. The article caught the attention of an Irish writer called Bram Stoker and ended up becoming an important source for this little novel he was writing…
(Redundant spoiler: It was DRACULA!)
You can read her article for free on Project Gutenberg.
It is really good stuff.
Sfântu Gheorghe—Saint George. Saint George was an early martyr and is famous for dragon-slaying. He is an important saint in the Eastern Orthodox church and his feast day is celebrated April 23. It's also a very mystical holiday—one of those few times of the year when it is believed the veil between this world and the next becomes thinner. People evoke the saint to help them protect themselves (and in many cases, their livestock) against witches and devils. It is a time when it is thought that members of occult groups perform elaborate ceremonies.