Vampires have existed in human lore for millennia before the arrival of the Vortex. Creatures of night, preying on humans and animals. Often, consuming flesh like a beast, but more often than not, content to suck only the blood of a hapless victim. Draining them dry. And then raising them as one of their own.
Throughout the world, these vampires have taken different forms. The deformed Nosferatu. The bestial Garkain. The charming Carmilla. The ravenous Chupacabra. So diverse are vampires that many scholars reject their similarities completely. Rather positing that they are unique monsters, whose only commonality is a distaste for sunlight and a hankering for blood.
But the phenomena of vampires on Post-Cataclysm Earth go far more than just a broadly defined category of beast. There is far more to tie these creatures together. A common ancestry that goes far beyond merely a curse or mutation.
And perhaps, finds its origin in an eldritch darkness on a long-forgotten world.
Basics of Vampires
For a victim of the creatures of night, trying to study them may seem foolhardy. What does it matter that a garkain is different from a dracul? What matters is they both have sharp teeth currency piercing your neck. The difference or similarities are irrelevant to a victim.
But to avoid becoming a victim, and to start stemming the tide of these bloodsucking nightmares, it’s important to be analytical. To understand the predator so it can become our prey. To do this, we must understand the vampire, in all its diverse forms.
So, what do vampires have in common?
While there are exceptions, the vast majority of vampires do subsist on blood or bloody substances like raw flesh. Further, most vampires also show an version to sunlight and purification magic. When exposed to either, their skin usually forms blisters as they begin to burn away, eventually turning into ash.
Ashing – of course – is the affectionate term that hunters use to refer to reliably killing a vampire. Vampires tend to be hardy. Even seemingly frail looking vamps can regenerate from destructive wounds if given enough time and blood. Even silver, a metal used against many dark creatures and curses, can harm vampires and stop their regeneration processes, but struggles to reliably kill some vamps.
The most reliable way to kill a vamp is to expose them to the sun or intense purification magic. Therefore, ashing them.
Not only humanoids are turned into vampires. And it’s sometimes hard to determine what a vampire was before they were turned, as vampiric mutations can turn man into beast and beast into man.
What we do know is that the Celestial Hierarchy does seem to apply to vampires. Middling Beings, like humans, can infect other Middling Beings and Lesser Beings (like dumber animals). But Lesser Beings can’t infect those higher up the chain. Middling Beings, as such, would fail to infect fae and angels, as they are higher than us on the Celestial Hierarchy.
This is only a small comfort, however, as a dog turned into a vampire by an infected sheep won’t care about infecting you when it seeks your blood.
While vampires share these rules in common, it is from their mutations that they derive their diversity.
Vampiric mutations are an anomaly to scholars. They first start to manifest after the vampire’s siring is finished. After that, they develop almost at random. While typically, a vampire mutates over time and older vampires will be stronger, some vampires can go years without developing further mutations, while others could transform into inhuman beasts within an hour. Many vampiric lorists have argued that the mutations are a display of hyper-evolution in action.
Others have countered that, citing an intelligent design, where vampires mutate according to the will of their affliction.
The most common mutations are fangs and red eyes, in all species. But other common mutations are claws, wings and thicker, armoured hides.
Older, more powerful vampires sometimes manifest their own form of vampiric magic. The ability to shift darkness and shadow to their wills, turning the dark into physical objects. Others develop sparks when they had none as mortals, now able to cast dark magic at will.
Mutations tend to follow a bloodline. A siring vampire tends to pass down mutations to those they infect, strengthening seemingly random mutations into trends. After long enough time of strengthening a mutation, it may coalesce into a consistent species of vampire.
Garkains are simply a vampiric bloodline that consistently has wings, impenetrable hides and bestial features. Nightkin are small apes who have developed a similar ability to teleport short distances. Carmillas have developed adept abilities in manipulation. The list goes on.
Where the confusion arises most is in the new species of vampires, as new bloodlines form and new species begin to develop.
But where do vampires come from? How are they created? Most observed specimens are sterile. The vampire mutation strips them of their ability to procreate.
In one rare case, a male vampire impregnated a female human. The pregnancy developed smoothly, until the vampiric infant became strong enough to consume its mother from within.
Vampires do not sustain their populations through breeding. Rather, they choose worthy mortals to join their flock. Turning a mortal into a vampire is referred to as Siring and isn’t taken lightly by vampire kind. Infecting a mortal requires an even exchange of vampiric blood for mortal, slowly replacing the mortal’s blood with the blood of their sire.
Vampiric blood is addictive, enthralling a mortal to the source of the blood. But the exchange can also weaken the sire. But the primary reason for trepidation in siring is how personal it can be.
Vampires themselves have spoken about the intimacy involved in siring a new vampire. A connection is made with the new vampire – called a fledgeling. Sire and fledgeling have their minds connected and share each other’s essence. Becoming more than companions, and even more than family.
For vampirism goes further than mutations and bloodlust. Among a bloodline of sires and fledgelings, there is a form of hive mind. A shared consciousness that’s not always apparent, but always present. Members of a bloodline come to mimic each other, reflecting the original sire. But most importantly of all, when a member of a bloodline is slain, their final moments are broadcast to all members of the bloodline.
Not just images, but smells, sound and the very essence of whoever killed their kin. This has led to vampires becoming known for their tenacity in seeking revenge for their fallen. They witnessed all of it, and they never forget.
For mortals who are drained of their blood and are not appropriate for siring, vampires reserve the despicable act of ghoulification. Often confused with zombies, ghouls are creatures drained of their own blood but given a drop of a sire’s in order to reanimate their bodies as obedient, bestial servants.
Unlike zombies, ghouls cannot infect anyone, but are also smart enough to use weapons. Even firearms. They tend to make up the bulk of a vampire’s foot soldiery. They do, however, suffer the same fate as their masters when exposed to sunlight.
Vampires are created by other vampires. That much is clear. But who was the first vampire? And where did they come from?
While the majority of vampires on Earth are created, sired by another vampire and often forming young bloodlines on a new world, there is a distinct category of vampires called True Vampires.
These vampires were, as far as we can tell, not turned by any other. They are naturally vampiric, coming from elsewhere across the In Between and arriving onto Earth through the rifts of the Cataclysm.
Many scholars believe that they are patient zero of one of a number of theories. A common, but now easily debunked theory, is that vampirism is a disease. But dissections and study of vampires has shown no presence of any parasites, viruses or bacteria that we can understand.
Further, some have posited that vampires are in fact undead. This is a popular theory, but untrue. There is no necromantic energy within vampires, even if many gravitate towards the discipline of necromancy.
The most likely theory has been that vampirism is a curse, like lycanthropy. But which is far more complicated than even the werewolf curse. For while this theory holds the most sway, purifiers and curse experts have been unable to identify the curse in any vampire.
But this brings us back to true vampires, and their origins. It is clear that true vampires were the first vampires on Earth, and they infected the original human vampires who then went on to spread their bloodlines.
But how did the true vampires come to be?
Dr Miriam LeBlanc, a world-famous vampiric lorist, has started lending credence to an originally unpopular theory of vampiric origins. The Ancient Hypothesis.
She came to believe this theory after identifying an additional element in all vampire test subjects. She spoke about this mark to Kat Drummond, the monster hunter:
“A mark. A scorched, albeit invisible, mark on the essential components of the vampire. In my tests, I have come to find this mark is consistent among vampires. In a way, it resembles weyline energy. Dark weyline energy, as is to be expected. Every vampire I have tested has this mark. It doesn’t matter if a lesser turned animal or a higher true vampire.”
She found a distinction between sired vampires and true vampires.
“A true vampire’s mark is darker than the rest. A blacker black. Lesser vampires have greyer, more translucent hues. It is as if they are diluted. But if they are diluted, where is the source? Where doth the water flow? The obvious answer is that the source are the true vampires. But, who created them? Who made them that way?”
Kat Drummond offered that true vampires may not need a creator. That it may be a naturally appearing species. Dr LeBlanc replied:
“A worthy theory, and one I used to hold. But vampirism is more than just a species. It is imposed. It is alien even to the vampires themselves. That is why so many lesser vampires are deformed. It isn’t meant to be there – vampirism, I mean. While it isn’t a parasite, it acts like one. The mark imposes itself on the wearer, but not even that. It does something else. Something much more sinister.”
This mark, Dr LeBlanc, hypotheses is not just a sign of a curse, or a scar of the transformation, but a form of siphon. A hook which connects a vampire to something across the In Between.
Dr LebBlanc and other scholars have not yet identified where this siphon leads but have studied the mark under certain scenarios. Through testing, they have determined the true nature of blood for a vampire. While blood itself does provide nourishment for a vampire, something else is channelled from the blood and into the mark. A form of life essence containing the latent spark in all things.
This essence is extracted by a vampire, like a well-behaved worker, and then sent through the In Between – to somewhere.
Let us hope that we never have to find out where. For, unfortunately, we have heard whispers of eldritch darkness at the corners of the In Between. Countless dead worlds drained of life and light. And while the vampires act as proxies, for now, their true sire grows anxious and greedy. Waiting for the right time to sink its dark, sinister fangs into a new world.