Queen Kiazhna 1560-1568

excerpts ITHE TOMB The bells of the royal church of Bucharest tolled wailing and gradually; and from above, from up the opposite hill, answered the small round spire of Bucur's church. It was towards the end of February, in the year 1560, and recently the body of King Mircea had been brought into town, the one nicknamed The Shepherd, who on the 25th of that month, had died on the way back from Transylvania; either the boyars who ran away there, whom he tried with false promises and sly oaths, to convince to come back in the country, had with poison taken away his life, or the merciful God had had at last pity seeing the plight of the poor Christians tormented by this cruel ruler, and decided then the hour of his harsh judgment. For four times had he been enthroned king in the country by force, by the Turkish Porte, and he had brought upon himself only curses and hatred because of his misdeeds; but he particularly terrorized the boyars and he worked them with meanness to avenge, with bitterness and torments, the killing of his father, King Mihnea, and the fact that his family had been chased away for a long time. As a form of revenge, many of them were killed by the Turkish horsemen, and many others, chased away to Transylvania, were waiting there for their turn to play a part in the changing Romanian fate. It was obvious thus that with the death of the king their hopes were renewed and their high ambitions were kindled again. But Mircea died while he was still a king, in the country; so the entire pomp of a royal funeral filled the town, with a deep and troubling sorrow at his passing away. The new Royal Court of Bucharest, built among the willows on the left bank of the Dimbovitza, and surrounded by thick walls with high crenels and narrow windows on the bulwark, was filled with a morose crowd, barely kept under control by a line of foot soldiers and ushers. Upstairs, in the royal residence, whose wide shingle roof spread all around with wide and overflowing eaves, all the heads of the state are gathered with a pious humility, around the adorned body of the deceased. The priests climbed down the stairs first and started with the usual slow rhythm, the burials songs; the army of soldiers on foot stood on two sides, with the flags bent down, with the muskets pointing downwards. In its middle walked the boyars who were his advisors, dressed in black, some of them carrying on their shoulders the coffin of the enlightened dead king, some others holding in their hands the lid, on which lay crossed the royal sword and mace; immediately following them came the widow of the deceased, Queen Kiazhna, on whose face, always frowned, nobody could see the troubles of her heart; her hair had started to turn gray, but she was tall, she was carrying herself straight and proud, her look was piercing and decided; she held her head up, impassible and daring. For the last time she put on the white garments and the lace veil of a bride, to take her husband to his resting place, because after that day the widow wasn't supposed to take off the black mourning clothes. Such were the customs of the old times. On her right were two young princes, around 14 and 15, with black clothes and sad faces. These were Mircea's heirs, now poor. The elder, Patru, limp and short, moved with difficulty leaning on a crutch; his brother Alexandru was accompanying him; and both, crying and silent, seemed carried away with sad thoughts. On Queen Kiazhna's left, two girls, maybe somewhat older than their brothers, but with black raw silk head dresses that hid their faces completely, proved only through sighs and sobbing their deep grief. After the weeping family, the procession continued with all the people of the house, mixing their wailing with the sad and weak sound of the drums – with the royal horsemen that saw it, by using gunpowder, that their horses would cry too – and, in the end, with all the people of the town, that walked with their heads uncovered, in mourning. The procession that had just started walked through the steep narrow roads of the small town, only on the left side of the stream, to grow, with the surrounding fence of a fieldworker, further away with the board fence of a guild man or of a peasant, and further away with the walls of a boyar house or of a small upstart boyar; it passed though the Big Square, where the camps of the traders, the chairs of the butchers and the stands of the foreign traders, Turks, Armenians or Greeks, were closed that day, and turned back to the royal residence, where the bells of the church tolled, the church which the Voivode Mircea the Shepherd had built himself, and in which he was the first king to be buried. One by one, everybody entered the holy place; the bier was set on the floor, right near the royal pew; the funeral service took place according to custom; and when, towards the end, the bishops, then the high and then the lower priests, started to come near the deceased and to kiss his right hand, and the cross he was holding, some boyars, mainly the young and the ones who had only just arrived at the church, whose horses and weapons had been heard clattering and clanking outside during the service, came forward boldly and, standing straight in front of the coffin, started to shout out to the frightened crowd in the church: "You should be ashamed, brothers, to defile your lips with such dirty hands! You should feel disgust at bowing your heads at the body of a man who was the terror of men, and Satan's instrument! Isn't it enough that, as long as this thief lived, he spent too many years in power; and, what is more, you curled like crawling animals at his feet and you licked his morose paw, that you don't dare to bite?! At least now you should be brave! Leave off your degrading servitude! See that his eyes have died away; the strings of his power are broken; at least now, dare and do like me, High Lord Steward Badea, and like my comrades, all of them boyars of this country, that the violent mischief of the Shepherd kept us away among foreigners. Come and bend your heads to the cross that has freed us, that I rightfully snatch away from the villain; and spit his corpse like me and throw stones at it!" At this daring words, accompanied by deeds, all stood petrified with spite. Kiazhna alone dashed to the daring young men and made them stop with her piercing eyes. "Away, you villains!" she shouted in a powerful voice. "Is this poor thing your courage, you infamous barbarians, to profane a tomb?! Tell me, what else can you do, fools, evil conspirators, plotters of disunion, who care only about yourselves and not the country and run, like dogs, after prey?! Why?! Do you think that since the Shepherd is dead, the flock will be left to you, to rob it as you wish? Hey! Proud boys, the time for this hasn't come yet! Mircea is gone but his son remained, and Kiazhna is his mother and she will know how to protect him from you!" The eyes of the exiles turned to Patru, whom Queen Kiazhna was pointing at, as she was saying this; but when they saw the small and stooping body of the young man, a contemptuous smile stretched on their faces, and Badea, the High Lord Stewart added laughing: "Aye! Poor land, if it were for all the people to limp, like the stooping Prince Charming! But shut up, don't waste your breath, lady, we won't be laughed at, poor us, because there was nobody worthier of the throne than this dwarf, ugly and limp!" The boyars started to laugh heartedly; but Kiazhna, mad with rage, snatched, with a powerful hand, from the lid of the coffin the royal mace and sword and handing them to her son said: "If he is limp and small, she said, there is the crutch that will support his disability, and here is the sword that will place him higher than all of you! But you don't pay for the words I waste with you. Get them, my sons!" she shouted, then heading towards the mercenaries and turning towards the priests: "Your Holiness, go on with your job!" Then the clanking of the dashing soldiers, the noise of the maddening crowd, that pushed one another, the sound of the bells, the thundering of the cannons made, all together, a confusing rumble, a sort of mixed fight, that everybody tried to get away from alive, so that in no time everybody sneaked out and the church remained empty. In the middle of the silence that followed that unusual rumble, a young man, with a handsome and pleasant face, got out from an isolated pew, where he had hidden with his heart filled with pious grief. A black country jacket with golden braids, black peasant trousers, with eagles on the knees, a short mantle on his shoulders, high boots with silver spurs; a short and straight sword at his hip, and a sable fur cap in his hand: this is how he was dressed. He wanted to get out of the church, when, on the heaped dust of the new tomb he saw a woman lying covered in a long head dress of black crape; he got closer, felt a little cold hand, lifted the head dress off her face and, for the first time, his heart felt, at the sight of an unknown woman, the thrills caused by the danger of a beloved being. Never before had he seen so tender and sweet features fighting suffering; never had his soul filled with a more ardent and vivid concern for a dear and precious life. He sat on his knees, and caught as in a spell, before that sleeping fairy, and his heart throbbed, and he was breathing heavily as if he wanted to share with her the life that he had in him. Gradually the young girl came round; her blue eyes blinked under her long blond eyelashes and – talk about the secret and unpredictable power of love! – the young Lady, who fainted at the sight of the terrible deeds of the exiles, wasn't scared seeing now before her a man that definitely had to be one of their own; but on his face one could see that moment so much peaceful generosity, so much pious submission, that her soul didn't see any evil, and her lips turning red slowly, whispered softly: "Thank you for being so kind and saving me from those unruly people!" Then, realizing that she was alone with an unknown man, she got up carefully, and still staggering a little she headed towards the royal houses. Radu (for that was the young man's name) stood there amazed; he looked after the gentle maid who soon disappeared like a shadow and, pressing to his chest the headdress that she had left in his hands, he swore that his whole life would be devoted to the angel of this charming dream. From that moment on, he who had been nurtured with the milk of enmity, he who had dreamed only cruel revenge, he who, hearing of Mircea's death, had hurried, along with other exiles, to cross the border of the country with hate in their hearts, with the victory contempt on their lips, with the bloodiest decisions, felt now, in a moment, all these harsh desires vanishing and his passions as well as his way of life, changed completely from that moment on. Radu was the son of Socol the magistrate, a former powerful boyar of the country; Patrashcu Voivode sent this Socol as messenger to the Empress of Hungary, Isabel, when she entered Cluj victorious (22 October 1556), and the messenger came back with precious gifts and high hopes; desiring even to be king, the magistrate secretly poisoned good Patru; but Suleiman's armies, that were bringing Mircea in his place, chased him far from the country and forced him to seek shelter in Transylvania. Socol entrusted then his wealth and family to count Francis Kendi and left for Constantinople to win the support of the Porte; but Mircea anticipated this, and having plotted against him for a long time, the poor claimer was thrown into the sea, at the Sultan's orders. In vain had then the wife and the children claimed back the fortune from Kendi; the Hungarian denied and kept to himself the money and the herds and the stores of food of the Romanian boyar. So now, the son was coming to regain his parent's rights; he had joined in with some of the exiled boyars who, impatient to see their homes, had come on horseback the very day of the king's burial, thinking, like the unreasonable, to snatch the throne away from the widow; but Mircea's woman was capable of facing them; so, some of these daring were caught and chained, others escaped in the jumble and prepared to come again with an army from Transylvania. Finding out again about the coming of the exiled boyars with an army, Kiazhna, who had set her son Patru the Limp on the throne, was not troubled too much at the thought that the embittered boyars had gathered in Transylvania a flock of tramps, that her army would easily overcome; she then sent against them the big cavalry commander with some cavalry. The parties fought in the village of Romaneshti in Dimbovitza, but the courage of the exiled defeated the king's men and the victors ran to Bucharest. All the royal family, with the boyars that remained with them, ran to Giurgiu, and from there, the Queen herself crossed the Danube to ask the Pasha of Ruschuck to help her. Then, gathering all the country's armed forces, the cavalry men and the pedestrians and the mercenaries and all the regiments of infantry, supported on the other hand by the Turkish Spahis, Kiazhna, ahead of her army, started on her way to Bucharest, spreading terror around her only though the multitude of her terrible army. The boyars, catching up on this, withdrew towards Craiova, waiting for help from across the Olt; but the royal army hit them on the slopes of the village Sherbaneshti. A rivulet which is winding at the foot of the hill, separated the two armies. The High Lord Steward Badea, the head of the exiled, realized he was trapped at the foot of the hill and had no way out; and Kiazhna, mounted like a man and wearing a coat of mail on her chest and a dagger in her hand, went through the lines and encouraged the Romanians with flattering words, the Turks with promises of wealth, and inspired all of them with her harsh courage. The soldiers, amazed and allured by the embittered courage of that determined woman that shouted at them, and gave them an example to hit the enemies, dashed, crossed in a second the little spring and, in a terrible carnage, defeated the small boyar army completely. There died, fighting bravely, Badea the High Lord Steward and many other exiles. In this cursed battle, the boyars remembered with grief so many brave comrades that surrendered and were enslaved and killed on the day of their unreasonable pride in the church of Bucharest; they considered among them the young Radu Socol, on whom they relied and who now, unknown, lived secluded and hidden on the Motru bank, in the ruins of the castle at Socoleshti, tormenting his soul between love and hate. IVTHE HERMIT GIRL  After the Turkish Porte banished Patru the Limp from the throne of Wallachia, this boy of royal blood was chained and exiled to the Konya castle in Anatolia; but his mother, worried about him, soon went after him and, with loads of gold, she asked for her enslaved son to be sent back. Forty thousand gold coins (in addition to just as many she had brought as the country's tribute), that she gave to the viziers and to the courtiers of all sorts, spared Patru's life; but one thing especially gained him the Sultan's favor, that is the fact that he heartedly turned over a treasure of one hundred thousand gold coins, that had been gathered, and kept, by the royal family of Wallachia. The Emperor took pity and gave ten thousand gold pieces of them to the old Queen; and he kept her son in Constantinople on pay from the imperial treasury, and after a few months he added to this twenty Turkish silver coins' worth of food a day. But Kiazhna wasn't satisfied with this at all; with a son king she was striving to get for the other the throne of neighboring Moldavia, which was taken at that time by a certain Ioan Voivode, an Armenian, a foreigner forever at odds with the Turks; for that, she made every effort to tell on him and doom him. Finally, in the year 1575, she succeeded, through her machinations, to obtain a banishing act for the Moldavian Voivode, and to place her son Patru on the throne, and he immediately set out from Constantinople with a Turkish army. As for him, Ioan Voivode wouldn't peacefully agree to give up the throne but, gathering his boyars and the country, he asked them to swear they would fight and die with him and starting then the preparations for battle, he sent for the Cossacks to come and help him for money; and these, as they are always ready to interfere in all kind of quarrels and fights, gathered about one thousand two hundred men and came to him. On the other side of the Milcov river, Alexandru Voivode, finding out about the unfriendly reception that the people of Moldavia were preparing for his brother, gathered his army as well and started for Moldavia to meet Patru. On the other hand, Queen Kiazhna, fearing, in spite of such favorable circumstances, an opposition from OltCounty, where a hidden enmity for the royal family lurked, decided to go through the Oltenian towns herself to terrify the daring, and to deceive, with flattery, the benevolent ones. She went quickly through Slatina, Caracal, Craiova, and found, almost everywhere, the boyars' houses empty; the ones that hadn't perished by the sword of the royal guards, had ran away in exile; the freeholders that still remained, together with the peasants, were suffering the country's grief and didn't even complain to the Queen. What good will it do to the Romanian to complain when the ear that listens to him is in league with the hand that oppresses him? He will be quiet until God takes pity on him one day, or until he himself chokes on the patience, and then he does justice for himself! Kiazhna went on her way to Cernetzi undisturbed and to Rushava. She was traveling in a barouche, which back then was a large wooden box, carved round and set without springs on a platform with four wheels mounted in iron. Eight trotters harnessed the Hungarian way, in a row, with harnesses of narrow and tightened straps were carrying the cart quicker than the wind. They were round Dobrogea horses, and ruffled Bugeac stallions completely black and with long tails, with the manes fluttering and the nostrils in the wind, tireless runners that barely touched, when ambling, the ground with the hooves. Two young coachmen with country jackets covered with braids, with the sheep fur tufted hats set on one ear, with white, large and rolled up sleeves, were driving them mounted, standing a little up on the saddle, shouting merrily and smacking their winding whips above their heads like thousands of curling snakes. This is how Queen Kiazhna was flying past, through the woods west of Craiova, and it was getting dark when her carriage drove down into a river meadow where, among branchy hornbeams, among thick nut trees, the yellow waters of a river were sneaking; the horses in the front had crossed the water when, suddenly, straining themselves, they started to snort; the other horses took after them, and in a minute all the harnesses became tangled; the Bugeac horses were pulling away and rising on their back feet, neighing frightened, with their right ears and the manes ruffled; not submitting to the harness, not listening to the voice, they stood tensed unwilling to move forth. "What on earth could that be?" some of the by-passers shouted, who didn't know horses. "Has the gadfly struck them?" "Nay, that's the way our Bugeac stallions are," an old Tatar courier from Bugeac answered proudly, "they have Egyptian seed in them, and the horse from Egypt senses from afar where there is an abandoned wall, and snorts because of the deserted place, and neighs as out of fear of death." Indeed, on the opposite bank, among the thick cluster of small trees stood, against the dark blue sky, a thin black wall, with a crumbled edge with creaked sides, fiery and croaking like the mark of a sin in the darkness of conscience. The noise of the royal procession woke up the owls and the bats which, from the creaks of the old building were flying fluttering their wings all around, with high-pitched shrills. "God help us!" the servants whispered to one another, trying to detangle the harnesses of the horses. "What ruins can these be? Another monastery profaned by the barbarians, may they burn in hell!... how could this be?..." "But it seems to me that it is the very place of Socol, that the Pandours burnt a few years ago, when they killed Radu, his son… no doubts about it. Yes, it was precisely here in Motru valley. It is said that the third day after they set the building on fire, a ghost came out of deep cellars, at night, with a big icon carved on its chest who started screaming in four directions, from where the four winds blow, at dawn and at midday and at sunset, and it went, brother, it went away, in the deep of the winter, where the snow heaps are as big as the mountains…" "See, that's why there haven't any been people around since then! All the fellows ran away terrified!" "Say, brother!" the listeners added in amazement; and because while the story was told the harnesses were set straight , the servants got the horses' reins, walked them, making the sign of the cross, past the ruins, then the coachmen, smacking their whips, shouted with high pitched voice: "Gee up! let's go!" and the whole bunch ran forward. Had Kiazhna heard what was told? Suffice it to say she kept a straight face, still frowning, still with piercing eyes, still with clenching teeth. At Cernetzi, at Rushava, then at Tirgu-Jiu, her enquiries yielded the same result; everywhere she found sleepy indifference, saying: "Have no fear!" but most of the time hiding the fire of revolt. She headed then for Vilcea only to turn back from there along the hillocks, to the place where her son camped. The road that passes through the mountains, from Gorj to Rimnicul Vilcei, about two hours away from that city, crosses a wide valley, where the brook called Otasau flows, on a narrow river bed paved with a thick layer of pebbles. You could say that his clear waters play cheerfully in pampered windings, sometimes sneaking carefully through the thick and short grass of the meadow, some other time running swiftly across the valley, from one bank to the other, like the shuttle on the threads of the loom. On the left side of the river there are hills on which fir trees and sycamore maples, ash trees and birch trees grew together; on the other side mountains with high peaks showed their terrible, caved and crumbled slopes that stretch like an old giants' wall, eaten by water and rotten. One evening, the moon, heading calmly from behind those black crumbled peaks, was obscuring with its long shadows, the deep valley and then again, sometimes going into the precipices, their rays were glowing, like precious stones, on the swift and foaming waters of the small brook. It was silence everywhere when it started to sound with a far away roar, the clatter of the hoofs of the horses which were carrying and accompanying the barouche of Queen Kiazhna. A courier was traveling ahead to check the road and to lead the way; his horse, which resembled, as it dashed away, the wind blowing over the grass on the field, was running so fast one would say sparkles were coming out of its hoofs and, at times, it would dip his legs in the waves, crossing the winding river bed of Otasau. Suddenly, near one bank, the agile animal stopped, snorting; and the rider, hearing close by a feeble and exhausted moan, saw under a passing moon ray the face, or better the shadow, of a white and dry being that was lying on the green bank of the rivulet. Her naked body, which was barely covered by some torn clothes, seemed crushed; the arms and the legs, thin and exhausted, looking maybe for revival in the coolness of the river, were floating on the water like withered autumn leaves; her tired head had fallen on the pebbles of the river bed, and her hair spread around her was bathing in the waves. The running usher stopped before that creature which looked more like a heap of bones, and soon after the entire royal procession appeared. The whole bulk of travelers, even the Queen, got off the barouche and the horses and neared the place where the unfortunate being lay; everybody, making the sign of the cross, was looking frightened, but with pity, at that crushed body, whose breath was like the last flickering of the candle that dies away. And, in front of such a noisy crowd, she opened slowly her deep set eyelids: her big staring eyes stared with deep sorrow towards the right bank of the meadow, and her entire body, through some feeble nervous starts, seemed to want to demand to withdraw towards a much desired place. That place was a green hill with a wide and round edge, on which grew, from ancient times, an old oak, under whose foliage the whole hill was sheltered; not far from it, an ancient poplar raised towards the clouds its proud tip. Both of them, like two poor and unfortunate brothers, grew alone on that slope; both, for many centuries, had been fighting the blizzards and the storms; both of them, for hundreds of times, had cast away the joyful leaves and the sad snow; both had united to be, in the desert, a merciful home for the birds in the sky, and cooling arbor for the herds in the sultry heat, blessed shelter for the tired traveler! Towards them was now directed the persistent desire, the last sigh of that helpless being. So a man took her in his arms and all the others followed him as he climbed the hill up to the old oak; but the closer they got, a streak of unusual light, which under the moonlight grew like a whitish evening star, like a bright ball of fire, seemed to get out of the middle of the old trunk. A holy awe filled everybody's heart; but pushed, as by a power that they couldn't oppose, they kept advancing, amazed by the shiny ray that was drawing them to it and captured their sight. When they got to the edge of the hill, right in front of the oak, everything around was bathed in light, everything was shining like a serene fire; and in the hollow trunk of the tree, surrounded by silver rays reigned, as in a circle of holy glory, the blackened face of the Virgin Mary, holding in her left arm the redeeming baby. "Holy Mother!" screamed the hermit girl who seemed to have gained a voice that sounded louder, sweeter than human voices, "Holy Mother! Mother without sin! You who have tried only the sorrows of the worldly hearts and haven't so far decided to forgive a few days wasted with the pleasures of life! You, who have watched without sorrow the torments of my heart, when my one and only in this world, my beloved help, fell under the grim blow of the murderers! You, who guided me on difficult roads, across ice floes, when with Your holy icon in my arms, I wandered, raving, the fields and meadows! You, who brought me under this holy trunk, in this hermit's wild shelter, in which my soul, crushed by sorrow, searches for peace in vain and forever, like a blessing, asks You to cut my weary days! So You, who whether I sinned or I repented, sentenced me according to my faults! Now, celestial mistress, my heart tell me that You finally took pity on me and drew near the hour that I longed for! So, now I bow down to Your feet wailing, begging and crying for You not to ask me for a heavenly reward – for what my part might be beyond this shallow world, it is in Your and in the Lord's bosom, and I will gladly accept it… – but, merciful Mother, You who were a mother and went through the passion of Your son, take pity and time, and soothe and wash away all the anger in my mother's heart who carried me, the unworthy, at her bosom, and at whose feet I throw myself now, so that she, merciful like You, shall never forget the mistakes of her rash daughter! At this hour, that is my last, forgive me mother, although I have much erred to you in life! Forgive me, for with bitter pains I have expiated, alas, my sinful error…" Uttering, contritely, piously and passionately these last words, the poor hermit girl had fallen with her head in the dust in front of Queen Kiazhna. That shiny vision of a holy icon in the middle of the night and of a desert land, that aching confession of such a miserable fate, that prophetic voice that foretold the nearing death of her daughter, made a shadow of mercy flicker in the frowned eyes of Kiazhna; but the rustling of mercy hadn't yet got down in her heart of steel when, suddenly, a swift and dark cloud passed, evil-boding, over the face of the moon. The light of the icon suddenly died out, and the darkness spread all around. The fierce mother turned around then with resolute swiftness, and hurrying towards the glen, shouted in a harsh voice: "Away, my sons!" The guilty caught in his evil deeds runs away at the faintest sign of remorse. In a second Kiazhna had climbed into the barouche, and her companions, scared by the harshness of her voice, had traveled a long way, running after her barouche, when they started to feel remorse in their souls defeated by their wild mistress. In the valley of Otasau, faint sighs, lost amid the shrill of the leaves that were swaying in the morning breeze, testified of the last sufferings of the wretched being. The mortal naked flesh of Princess Ancutza fallen in front of the holy icon, in the wild cell that she had found for herself in the hollow of the ancient oak, was covered by the leaves scattered by the autumn wind. After many years, the shepherds found there the Virgin's icon, that is said to be one of seven painted by Luke the Evangelist, and in the very trunk of the old tree they carved the old church of the monastery called "Of One Piece of Wood". While Queen Kiazhna went on with her persuasion trip across the Olt, and in the Upper Country, her young princes, accompanied, one by a native army and Hungarian help, the other by the Turks that were given him to enthrone him on the much desired throne of Moldavia, met in the town of Focshani and camped with their armies mixed together in the village of Sapatzeni, in the river meadow of Milcov. The Queen mother caught up with them carrying in her tormented soul a worrying feeling that, under her harsh pride, came out as fierce restlessness. She was trying in vain to calm down her restlessness with the hope of future deeds; the armies around her, many and guarded, seemed to her soft and needy. A ceaseless murmur of secret betrayal whispered in her ear; her mind was caught up in various suspicions. At day, she would restlessly walk the camp, wanting to test the loyalty of the soldiers, to resurrect, like before, the courage in their hearts; but the seed of distrust followed her everywhere, and the encouraging line would vanish from her lips; then again, in the silence of the night, forever awake and overwhelmed with worries, she eavesdropped at the prolonged screams of the far away guards, and often, seized by incomprehensible fear, ran to watch the entrance to the tents where her sons were resting in dreams of victory, the tools of her insatiable pride. On the contrary, these two young men, relying heavily on their armed support, on fate's complicity, and on all the mirthful fantasies of their youth, were spending their days with cheerful feasts, partying with the boyars and the heads of their armies, and ready to come upon Ioan Voivode if the worried feelings of their Queen mother hadn't prevented them. In such different pastimes was the brotherly army of Mircea involved when the news came that the Moldavian boyars, fearing that they would in the future be cast away from the grace of the new King, had decided to leave their old ruler to his evil fate and to come, led by Dumbrava the magistrate, to pay homage to Patru Voivode. This piece of news filled the camp with joy; with high hopes in the future deal, the guards were suspended, the surveillance ended, the horses were released to the meadow, the weapons were piled up; everything was readied for total brotherhood. But Queen Kiazhna, who didn't see this unreasonable dismissal of all the defense measures in a good light, the closer the Moldavians got, the more she insisted that the young princes keep themselves aside, heavily protected. Lucky them that, convinced by the ceaseless demands of their mother, they agreed to fulfill her wish, and that neither of them was in their tents when the Moldavians came before the Wallachian army. It is true that Dumbrava, the magistrate, got off his horse in front of the royal quarters, accompanied by a fierce crowd of boyars and servants wearing neither elegant clothes, nor the humble smile of submission, but the steel garment of a day of war and the bold stare of an easy victory. Apart from this, one could see in the distance numerous armies which, judging by their small and hairy horses, by their large red shalwars, by their pointed caps, by their prolonged songs and by their high spears that were shining in the sun like the ears in the field, one could easily recognize as the Cossack troops coming under the lead of Sfirsky to help Ioan Voivode. Kiazhna, who in this difficult situation knew to imprint on her deceiving face a cold, serene pride, received the Moldavian boyars in an adorned tent, round, made of white carpet, sewn with golden thread and bound all around to golden stakes. Dumbrava the magistrate entered ahead of his comrades; he was a tall and broad-shouldered man, wearing a sheep fur cap that was hiding his shaved head, from whose top only one strand of hair was hanging down on his muscular neck; he was dressed in a bear fur coat and had a belt from which was hanging a mace with iron thorns, a true giant's weapon. "Where are the bastards?" he shouted in a hoarse voice, entering the tent, hand on his hip. "Their time to die has come! Poor them, my brothers!" "It seems to me that, being drunk, you don't know what you're saying, master magistrate," said the Queen, taming her anger, "or perhaps you have the brains of a baby in your stout body!" "Shut up, woman, don't gossip!" Dumbrava answered, "You thought that Moldova is a country to ply with, for a knave woman to make us dance like a bear at the fair, a woman sheltered by the Wallachians and two charmed sons of a bitch, two dumb lickspittles smelling of milk! We don't need a Wallachian king. The Wallachian is a sly man; he is not like the Moldavian, honest, generous and kind-hearted. Come on, brave fellows, my dear, rush in and catch them and tie them up side by side to take them as a gift to Ionitza Voivode, like two rams on a May Day pole!" "Shameless dogs, evil people!" Kiazhna shouted, foaming with rage; but Dumbrava didn't allow her to go on with her useless swearing: taking his mace out of his belt he turned it around his head for a few times with his powerful arm and then saying a terrible curse he threw it directly at the head of the infuriated Queen. Kiazhna fell on her back, and then suddenly, with her eyes bleeding, with her mouth open, she tried to get on her knees, to support herself with her hands, to utter a word; but she could barely say: "The kings! My sons!" and the blood that was pouring from all over her pierced head choked her. Her body writhed and her teeth clenched, she got up for a few times and rolled with the head in the dust, crouched and stretched in some painful spasms, then fell stiff in a pool of blood. Meanwhile, the Moldavians and the Cossacks looted the camp: the Wallachians ran wherever they could. Alexandru Voivode got away in Floci Fortress; Patru stopped running in Braila. Ioan Voivode then entered Wallachia and made Vintila king; but in a few months fate changed. Ioan Voivode died a slave at the Turks; Alexandru was enthroned again, and Patru the Limp ruled over Moldavia, praised and loved by the crowd. The historical "episode" Queen Kiazhna was published in 1860, one year after the unification of the two Romanian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. Apart from the public offices he held, Al. Odobescu (born in 1834) was a passionate archeologist and traveler (he studied in France, which he admired, and communicated in French all his life, while England left him with an impression of grandeur), a gourmet and bon viveur whose erudition shines in the False Treatise of Hunting, but also a morphine addict always in debt – the apparent reason (and the means, respectively) of his suicide in 1895. 

by Alexandru Odobescu (1834-1895)