A Tale of Two Rituals: a comparison of sorcerous and cultic vampires

On the world of Takhmo, there are two kinds of vampires: the first is created by sorcery, as typified by Halan of Gimirrai (gi MERE eye) and his legitimate apprentices, while the second is created by a limited form of divine intervention, as typified by the lineage of Akchan, Halan's heretical ex-apprentice, now a devotee of the godling Gwiyodhunas. (gwee YO dhoo nahs) (In spite of the professed creed among Gwiyodhunas cultists, the religious form of vampirism is decades younger than the sorcerous form.)

Halan himself was born in Gimirrai some 432 years ago. Scion of a minor land-holding family, he learned to read and write, and casually studied sorcery as was the custom. After a virulent plague struck, overwhelming mundane and magical resources and carrying off nearly all his family (among many others), Halan took to a deeper study of sorcery, seeking secrets of healing, longevity, finally even immortality. This search led him to the Masters of the Tomb, a secret group of wizards with similar goals: together they developed the Vampire Creation ritual, a days-long procedure which if successful turns the participant sacrifice's body into an undead machine, uncoupled from the natural cycles of the world. This offends all the elemental gods, and the form's potential immortality offends those gods who tend the afterlife of all believers. It also offended the religious authorities of the period (much aggrandized in response to the plague): the group was discovered and disbanded only a year after Halan had undergone the ritual. Ironically it was a descendant of Halan's who all unknowing uncovered the group's activities.

In addition to having the strength of three or more and being effectively immune to disease, the undead body can take several forms: a mist (about 75 m3 if anyone cares...), a night hunter like a wolf, a flier like a bat, and the humanoid form of the original body; but other forms can be learned: the machinery can be reprogrammed, as a dwarf might say. These forms were based on the Transformation spells available to the Masters who created the ritual. And of course the machinery needs life-force (blood) and mana to refuel it. As a matter of style, sorcerous vampires are urbane: Gimirrai in Halan's time was a civilized place (actually verging on decadent, but it would be unwise to say so to Halan!), so the blood-taking is rarely fatal, and may even be sensual, erotic and long-term--the idea of someone's taking a vampire lover is not outside the possible. And finally, as part of the divine-hostility motif, natural animals react with fear to all vampires.

What we may call the Gwiyodhunatic form of vampirism arose when Akchan, one of Halan's earlier apprentices, and himself a vampire, attempted to enchant a matrix to hold the Vampire Creation ritual. Due to a subtle miscasting of an element in the enchantment, the flawed matrix attracted the attention of a chaotic spirit, Gwiyodhunas, who indwelling in the matrix cruelly misled Akchan into believing that it was the god of vampires, from whom Halan had stolen the creation ritual, and that Halan was therefore a damned heretic. Naturally Halan and Akchan fell out over this issue, and after a pitched magical and physical battle, Akchan fled southeast to unknown lands, taking the matrix and other magical items with him. Halan conjured many powerful Sendings against him, but, no doubt with Gwiyodhunatic aid, all failed. Hearing no more of Akchan, Halan assumed that Gwiyodhunas had eaten its disciple. Recently however, disturbing rumours have come out of the southeast: Halan and his legitimate apprentices, notably Oleastra, are watching this business closely: it's a matter of 'protecting the brand', after all; these rumoured other vampires seem to be much more brutal and ravenous, a fact which might incur unwelcome attention locally.

The Gwiyodhunatic vampire is a cultist, not a sorcerer. The myths and sacred tales of the cult (all a sham) portray Gwiyodhunas as a willing sacrifice at the dawn of time when the world began, his power, along with unnamed others, taken to bind the stuff of the world into its present form. Unexpectedly, even though he was a god, he survived, and discovered how to take power from other beings, and was cast out of the company of the gods for this 'vile practise', hence the enmity of all the gods.

Thus there is a much more ruthless and savage aspect to the Gwiyodhunas cult as contrasted with the sorcerous branch: victims are usually taken as prey and rarely survive the experience, although occasionally a vampire is interested enough in a victim to carry him or her off, still barely alive, to the carefully hidden temple, where the ritual embodied in a copy of the original matrix is enacted over the unwilling victim. This takes half the time of the sorcerous ritual and nearly always succeeds--having a god, even a minor god, on your side has its advantages. When the victim awakes after these horrific experiences, he or she is alone and outcast among experienced members of a cruel and savage cult; the Stockholm syndrome plays out and the victim is mercilessly 'turned' to the cult: those few with the will to resist are destroyed out of hand.

Since the ritual _is_ embodied in a matrix (made and flawed in the making by a young sorcerer), Gwiyodhunatic vampires are different from the sorcerous norm: they can only take the basic shapes: mist-form, wolf, bat, and humanoid. (Akchan knew no Transformation spells.) Gwiyodhunas also has his hooks in each of his creations and takes a portion of the life-force and mana for himself: thus they must feed more often and take more each time, and from the mode of their creation, approach their victims in a more savage and brutal fashion than the suave demeanour of the Halanitic form. ( Of course one might argue that Halan's use of the Soul Reaving enchantment against those who attack him is equally brutal, but he would simply retort that such bad behaviour needs to be punished, and ask if it would be better if the cultists had access to the ritual.)

Gwiyodhunas apparently seeks to become a greater god by taking lives and mana in this fashion: it is unclear whether the entire vampire creation approach was conceived as a means to this end, or whether the ascension plan arose after the take-over of the matrix. In either case, as a god not bound, as all the other gods claim to be, by the Pact of Time (that made the world what it is and gave the gods their own spheres and no others), Gwiyodhunas would be a very dangerous and destructive actor in the world. Halan and his colleagues would do well to watch the god's activities very carefully.

Also the Gwiyodhunatic form can 'breed' faster than the Halanite form, which requires a seduction and a long period of trust-building before the willing apprentice agrees to let the master sorcerer ritually murder him or her (successfully) in the process of creation (remembering that if the master fails, the target is normally dead & could be resurrected, but if the master fumbles badly, the sacrificial victim is utterly destroyed--no afterlife, no reincarnation, nothingness). In the long term, Gwiyodhunas may have the edge here. On the other hand, Halanites are more civilized and capable of longer-term strategic planning, as opposed to the smash and grab tactics usually employed by the cultists--witness Halan's 180 years of effort to wrest his homeland Gimirrai from the Zaraafi Empire, and his centuries-long oversight and protection of his descendants.

We must wait and see who wins this battle.

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