I wake feeling refreshed as I did not for years. Benedictus Figulus's combination of Leonardo's machine and Paracelsus's formula stands proven. My hands are those of a maid, not a matron nearing old age. The catacomb in which I hid the pseudo-sarcophagus while the alchemical principles worked their physic upon my decrepit body stands laden with dust, a thick sediment over an inch deep. Had the long vents which allow shafts of sunlight to enter failed, I should be in darkness. Sitting up, my hair tangles with my body, long as a damsel's from a faerie tale. The time required for this experiment staggers the mind. I am adamant- none shall discover I am her and not a descendant. Should enough time have passed, I may make my way unremarked.
Imprisoned here, Thurzo thought my power ended, but it grew. Now, I need only take the hidden box of jewels and find a money-changer to return a thousand times more deadly. Once others understand the power at my disposal, all will seek to pay me for eternal youth. My dress shreds like cobwebs, but the beauty of my perfect legs distracts me. No more the veined, sagging flesh covering withered limbs, instead the firm perfection of a teen. Perhaps the secret compartment, accessible only through the bottom of my rejuvenation bed, will contain clothing more appropriate for a countess who shall soon be an empress.
Clever machinations of an artificer allow the bed to fold back like a pair of triptych. Lead-sealed, iron boxes lie underneath. Jewels, clothing, and the tomes- the all important details of this medical wonder are contained therein. Perhaps, though, I should keep the secret for myself, allowing no other the apple of life. Indeed, if the Catholics prevailed, I might be burned for attempting to reach Methuselah's age. I crack the seal on the largest box, the one which should hold clothing. Inside, I find a peasant style dress, though crafted of silk to avoid chafing my skin, fleece-lined boots, and a heavy red cloak. Attired thus, I shall escape detection by any guards who remain after such a long time. I open the box of jewels and I use a jeweled dagger to trim my hair to a roughly uniform length near my waist, then return it to the box. I take a simple silver broach inlaid with lapis lazuli. Such might be the family treasure of a peasant and is something I might readily lose without sorrow. The greater pieces, the gold set with rubies, sapphires and diamonds, the strings of pearls, the opals and emeralds set in an ancient electrum crown dating to the Greeks- all must remain hidden until I can safely use them.
Exiting the chamber, I find a wonder unexpected. The stone panel still swings freely, but only once the hidden catch it released. However, the entire hallway is lined with some form of eldritch balls, globes which glow as though filled with fire. A thin cord runs along the seam of wall and ceiling, connecting them. I suppose it must carry whatever alchemical mixture feeds the spheres- though it seems far too thin, for such bright illumination. Unlike my chamber, this passage sees many feet, preventing the accumulation of dust. I drag the hem of my cloak to obscure the mess which otherwise reveals the line of entrance, and egress, from my safe haven. Would that I had a servant to sweep it for me. But those days are long past.
Following the line of uncanny lighting, I reach an area populated by folk. They dress in such rich diversity, I fear I have stumbled unknowing into an assemblage of peers. The babble which reaches me dispels the notion, for it is the peasant tongue of Czechs, not Hungarian befitting nobles. Someone calls to me, "Are you on the staff? A boy just spilled his drink over there. It needs cleaning up."
I throw back the hood, hoping my noble visage will intimidate. "Do I appear a char woman?"
"Oh look, it's a performance piece. She looks just like Countess Bathory."
"Let me see the heir of Dracula."
"I want a picture. Get out of the way."
"When did they add this?"
The babble quite takes my thoughts from me. Did other medical miracles survive and I am now heralded as a saint? I cannot imagine why they ask about a remote relationship to Romanian monarchs. Did one later take up my work? How fitting the machinations of the Palatine should fall to the inexorable hand of history which, in the fullness of time, reveals all hidden truths.
A teen girl, who is no older than I now appear, grabs my sleeve. "Do you have any fake blood for a vampire shot?"
"I have no idea what you mean." I try to disengage from the child. Her hand leaves a sticky imprint on my shirt. I snap at her, "Look what you did?"
"Please, it'll come out with the wash." She waves her hands like a fishwife. "But I really want to get a picture of me with the Blood Countess. Don't you have some colored syrup or something?"
"I want a picture of you bathing in blood." Another voice from the crowd.
"Bathing in blood?" I am repulsed. How thick did Gyorgy smear his slander to make so many believe the charge? "I would never do such. The entire case against me was an intrigue meant to steal my lands. Are the folk of this era such cretins?"
"Ooh, this is good. The old conspiracy theory revisited." The girl clearly believes I am a play actor. Now I see my mistake. This place swarms with folk, here to gawk at my besmirched memory, and my movements will eventually be noticed. I must take my entire treasures with me, to ensure I need never again return to this place.
"Alas, I, the ghost of Elizabeth, Countess Bathory, should be reduced to such a state. I must return to my slumber." With those words, I exit and head back to my sanctum. I will use my jewels to purchase whatever aid I need to bring my sleeping rejuvenation device out. Then I will wait, building my wealth until I can make the heirs of my detractors pay for their insults. They wish a bloody countess? I shall give it to them.
Historical Notes- Gyorgy Thurzo, Palatine of Hungary, investigated the charges against Elizabeth Bathory in the early 1600s. He saw her convicted and placed under house arrest, or perhaps confined to a single room, in her castle at Csejte. The lurid tales are the foundation for the hypothesis that Bathory was a serial killer unmatched by any woman ever. However, Thurzo and certain others profited by the seizure of Bathory's lands. This has led to the second theory, that Bathory was subject to an elaborate frame, rather than being guilty of any wide ranging evil.
Leonardo da Vinci is a typical source for fantastic devices. Paracelsus was a medical scholar of the middle 1500s and his theories were broadly reprinted (and possibly expanded upon) by Benedictus Figulus. Bathory might have been a patron of Figulus as they were contemporary. As the wealthiest person in Hungary, she could have afforded research into a unique device. Sleeping for centuries while your body rejuvenates is thematically identical to a time machine which only works once.