"That book?" sighed the librarian. "That one is hard to find. The priests say it is heretical. But," he continued more quietly "word is they have a few copies, and study them very carefully. That even they consider it true."
This is an account of my studies of vampirism. I lay down these words in the hope, that they will be used for the cause of Good. For is it not said, that without knowing an enemy, one cannot defeat him? I went through many sources of knowledge, known and forgotten, kept and lost, I have even consulted those loathsome creatures. Alas, I have learned much, perhaps too much, and I feel the lure of darkness gnawing at my soul. I trust that the reader will exercise wisdom and caution, and protect this text from the unwary and weak of mind. Even more should it be protected from those of a strong will, but weak morals.
The Origin Of Vampires
The vampires that really exist are distant relatives of those from legends. To the common man is known a little about their weaknesses and nature, most of the stories are nothing but hearsay. I am writing here everything that I have learned, as close to the truth as it is possible to know.
Of all the tragedies that befall mankind, few are as sad as great minds falling to evil, due to pride, fear, or even noble intentions.
The first dhampiri were such inquisitive minds, intent upon discovering the last secret, and crossing the final frontier: the death. First interested, and as their age advanced, becoming more and more desperate, they dabbled in dark, occult teachings, in the mystical and magical, and increasingly foul.
Finally, they have experimented on themselves, and a few went beyond any definition of normality, and, perversely, achieved the eternal life they longed for - for the price of their soul.
The legends I will not mention here speak with more colour, this seems to be their true origin.
Powers and Weaknesses
Vampires, as they see their kind, are not mere blood-sucking monsters, but philosophers of a very peculiar breed. But enough has been told about their beliefs, and philosophy. I shall inquire into the most disputed topic. There are too many legends, and too many misconceptions.
The key to their supernatural potential is their immortality. But how is it achieved?
An adept of vampirism has to learn the basic mystical techniques, with which he practices the refusal of Fate, and the binding of his life force to himself. These techniques are said to be sufficient for maintaining eternal life and great power, if one masters them to the uttermost level.
The practicing indeed offers some powers, but no known vampire has ever lived beyond death based on it alone, legends not considered. Only a legend claims, that Ur, the first vampire, that vanished aeons ago, become so powerful, and independent of the rules of this universe, that he has simply gone beyond it, and created a world of his own, a better universe. This they report as truth, providing no evidence.
Therefore, when the force of life threatens to leave their bodies, they resort to another technique: the transfer of life from other sources. Vampirism makes its practitioners greatly sensitive to their life force, and if it seems to dwindle, they will take it from elsewhere. And as the intelligent reader will have guessed, the most akin beings provide the best source of this power.
Romantic novels and popular tellings describe in detail, how a vampire will sink his teeth into the neck of a victim, and drain it's life and blood to sate its eternal hunger and preserve its immortality.
The truth is, that it is not necessary. This hallmark of vampires is only one of many rituals, preferred as it may be. For instance, records exist of a ritual of war, where a battlefield with warriors clashing, and the wounded and dying, all have become the feeding ground of a vampire. How effective are this other rituals at harvesting power, and how preferable, is a matter of some debate among the vampires themselves.
The "Bite" is one of possible ritual transfers of the life force. Some victims claim it is an ecstatic experience, some are horrified from it, a few unstable natures were driven mad. The loss of one's very Life is certainly unsettling, and can make a victim easier to beckon on the path of darkness.
The sun defines the cycle of Night and Day, a rule vampires cannot avoid in any way. Also, their very existence is a lie. Therefore, by entering the sunlight, the Vampire must confront the complex lie he has used to shield himself from reality, from death. 'The Light of the Sun,' so speak the holy texts, 'is the natural light of the Universe, it illuminates Truth and banishes Illusion.'
As vampires mature into their immortal roles, they become more and more averse to the day. Sunlight is a powerful source of life, a source they cannot use, and it will burn them if they are not careful to hide from it. But one day, they will become powerful enough to endure sun itself, or so they say. Be warned: the young vampires do tolerate sunlight.
The moon, in turn, changes constantly, defying rules, and that is much more to their liking. Thus they can tolerate the Night. Be informed, that eclipses are for many of them of the holiest significance- the darkening of the sun, a sign that He is calling out to the strong.
Stories and Truths
Many tales are told of vampires, and to explore them all would take many more texts than this one. I shall explore only a few.
The aging vampires begin to have a feeling for other old things. It is only natural that they prefer items, that have survived the test of ages, and many enjoy them, or even feel drawn to them. It is not rare for a vampire to collect or deal with antiques. Such items may reveal glimpses of their past to those more powerful, by feeling, or visions.
Some reports I could not verify, only doubt them. It may be only folklore, or worse, misinformation spread by the vampires themselves. Spreading grains around them does not make them count it. I have worn garlic on myself, when conversing with the creatures. But did they not harm me, because they were afraid, or merely were amused to keep this myth in circulation?
There is one last thing I must mention: holy symbols, and holy water, both are anathema to vampires. Gods do not tolerate creatures, that aspire to be gods themselves, not for anyone's good, but for their own power. Important is not present the divine by itself, but with strong faith, or the symbols become mere annoyances.
The Essence Of Vampires
Now I must reveal the most unsettling of their secrets.
It is not true, that vampires can spread their curse by biting, sharing their blood, or by a mere look at a pregnant woman.
Vampirism is a supernatural teaching. It is based on the philosophy, or as some say, a demented religion, of those unwilling to obey the eternal laws of the universe. Mortals become old and weak, and die in the end. That is one of the rules, and vampires have self-appointed themselves as supernatural rule-breakers. Their defiance to rules extends but further, and any rule is likely to be considered annoying, to be broken, or by-passed. Therein lies their danger to the peaceful society: that there is no deed evil enough to evade, or a moral principle holy enough that they would not break at convenience.
What separates this "religion" from others, is that its followers believe in the chance to become gods themselves. It is a worship of power, pure and unlimited. There is no greater blasphemy a mortal mind could bear in itself.
Vampirism is a teaching, therefore it must be taught - and learned. It does not pass to innocent victims from inhuman monsters, it is accepted willingly, it is a decision. Vampires spawn by having students.
"Think.", told me one of the creatures, a man of stature and good reputation, whose name I promised not to reveal. "If a bite is enough to increase our numbers, would not the world be overrun by our kind?"
And I pondered on this matter. Most vampires draw life from mortals, blood is the medium of choice. They are not animals, they are something worse, but few would choose to live in wilderness, with little comfort for study, and few chances to find prey. Therefore, the most likely place for vampires to live out their accursed lives is next to the living. They are not many, but they are among us.
How the undying live
If their beliefs are said to be a religion, then their church is not a solid institution, but rather a myriad of splintered sects that differ on the teaching, ways, mysterious rituals called Blood Riddles, and more.
Unless vampires choose to be completely alone and fend for themselves, cells are formed, that cooperate and squabble with other cells of their sect.
In this group, there is usually one leading vampire, and a few students, 'vampires-to-be'. The group protects its members, supports the students and their master in research and warns other cells of danger or trades with them information.
There can be numerous servants and protectors, who aid the vampire in daylight. Maybe they were promised immortality, even bitten to make them think it is enough, so when they die and are lucky, they will rise. Of course, they are not taught the necessary rituals. Then there are people serving as fodder, of which I learned little, except that many like, or end up liking their fate, and do so for years.
The Lure of Damnation
When discovered, vampires can be surprisingly open about their existence, and willing for discussion. This is how they find new students as well.
I talked to a man, an adventurer-upon-return, who survived an encounter with a vampire. He and his comrades fell to a trap, and were imprisoned. The creature would talk to them, explain its existence, apologize, that it has to feed to survive, and then it fed off them. It made a point, of how easily life's power is lost, and that they will be losing it for every day of their lives... until they die. And thus it would torment them, teasing with immortal life. It must have derived great pleasure from tempting heroes with the Darkness.
My contact was friendly as well. He was very supportive to my research, and interested in its outcomes. He talked at length about his existence, answered most of my questions, and allowed me to study some of his records.
And then, from one day to another, he declared that we shall not speak for a whole year.
Still present, I could see him at times, he refused to exchange even a word. My most reliable and exhaustive resource was at hand, and not reachable. I was dumbfounded, shocked, outraged! Only later that year I began to understand... it was not a whim, but a definite purpose. He teased me, with all that knowledge I so desired, and showed me how fast the time can be. He can wait a year, or a decade, for me it was a torture. Clearly, I was what they call a candidate.
I have found other sources later, but decided to abandon my research. Now, I have put my knowledge on paper, and will forget, if it is possible. It is years, since I have spoken with any of those creatures, and yet I feel their call. And be assured, dear reader: it is not the work of dark magic. It is simply a part of me, a very human part, that yearns to continue, to not feel old age coming, to avoid death...
I pray to the gods for my soul.
(This submission is actually a remake of a remake, of the great Dhampiri ( http://www.strolen.com/guild/index.php/topic,1440.0.html ). The mythical history, the bloodlines, even the Riddles can be integrated here seamlessly. Special thanks belong to the Captain and Siren!)
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? Responses (23)
Updated: I don't know how much life force I have lost while looking for the right format and words, and now it is a lifeform and book at once. Out with you!
Note: there will be a related post on vampiric magics.
Hot. Dang. That's possibly the best remake of vampires I've ever seen or heard of. Excellent manfred! If only there was a small bit more, it would get a straight five from me. It just seemed slightly lacking in small areas.
Yeah, I'm still missing bits to fill in myself. Hint: if you miss something, say what it is (well, if you know, of course... I often have a hard time telling what exactly a submission lacks).
Anyway, a system post on vampires and their magic is upcoming, and should explain how they work.
That is so good. 5/5
If I ever use vampires, I'll use dhampiri. Excellent explanation, In fact, I am writting a sub with a similar Idea regarding sunlight at the moment.
Well written, and an interesting take on the topic.
Excelent, I like the ending. I really like vampires, especially after "Interview with a Vampire." AS such, I understood the part about it being willing very well.
I liked it in the forums, I liked it in chat, and i like the finished product! Though as CM adds, there could be even more scrumptious detail and new-look madness. More!:)
Lots to love here and a very entertaining read! 'Essence of Vampires' on down, is great!
I have been hesitant to comment on this submission considering that I have long been a fan of the vampire, and particularly played Vampire for close to a decade now. I see that this submission has been very well recieved but I do not share the enthusiasm of the other members.
I particularly do not like the essence of vampire section since it makes becoming a vampire a willing choice as benefit of secret knowledge. This in many ways removes the horrific aspect of being a vampire, the innate sense of violation that comes with being slain by a member of the undead and brought back into a mockery of life by the gift of blood. Reading the philosophy and essence sections left me with the Kung-Fu master impression of Vampires, do as I say and I will show you the secret to immortal life, you will become one with the blood, yadda yadda yadda.
This take on vampires leaves me unmoved. They are neither horrific or tragic, nor sensual or bestial.
Oddly, I found this philosophical approach to vampires oddly reminescent of the Ordo Dracul from Vampire. In fact, it rather seems to fit some of the original vampire myths involving arcane knowledge as a key to the vampiric state quite well (that would be the Strigoi and Vlad Tepes, the man himself). After all, there is plenty of horror to be gained from conscious decisions to perform horrific acts. The new vampire who is forced to feed faces angst and self-loathing, a gut-level reaction. A new dhampiri forced to feed is in for a sickening realization at what he has become by his own hand. The two blend well. In fact, see the Humanity points section of the current Vampire edition for something rather like this approach.
Additionally, Vampire makes frequent reference to vampires studying their potential childe in great detail to see if it would benefit them, which is very similar to this approach.
Thirdly, I think it important to read this as the viewpoint of vampires observing themselves. No one thinks of themselves as a villain. People do evil by rationalizing it to themselves, and something as debased as the vampiric lifestyle certainly requires some serious mental gymnastics in order to rationalize it. Its no surprise then that the vampires have developed an entire philosophy in order to explain their behavior. Manfred has created a race of smiling, handsome, charming sociopaths, and I quite like them. There's room in Vampire for this approach, see the Daeva and/or Ventrue.
As a last note, both mythos blend quite well with the creation of a ritual that transforms a victim, willing or not, into a vampire. It can be given as a gift, or forced upon an unsuspecting victim (assuming the vampire thinks that transforming a stranger into a powerful fiend will somehow benefit him. Most mythos do this by including the whole 'spawn dominance' thing). In fact, Vampire did this with the Embrace.
Thanks for all the points, Lockheed!
As said elsewhere, this piece was inspired by too many movies and stories, where their breeding ability degraded vampires into yet another case of zombies. And so came the idea of something completely opposite.
But you are right: this can be the 'official' philosophy of the vampires, or at least some of them, to rationalize their existence, or even to attract mortal followers. They can still be the bloodsucking fiends as we know them. Maybe this is the truth; maybe it is just a cover; maybe is the truth completely different. More mystery doesn't hurt here.
Evil, as all things, is a choice.
This post makes it even more terrifying. If a man is compelled to murder through some baser instinct or powerful magics, it is a way for him to be de-humanised by the rest of us. We can polarise our perception and make a distinction between them and us.
If these being chose their fate, however, they become worst than the vilest beasts. They choose evil, knowing all the facts and implications. Instead of external corruption, they choose to corrupt themselves. It brings the vampires and their deeds far closer to humanity than previously. There is no them and us, but we, and their evil is ours too.
They are, I will agree, neither tragic, nor sensual, nor bestial.
Indeed, They are far worse.
Again, I disagree. These vampires are philosophers, and I think the conscious choice to become evil is a bit trite and cliche. With the exception of Richard III, no one sets out to be a villain. As for dehumanization, we dont need any sort of supernatural agent for that, we can do that fairly well in terms of race, nationality, creed, gender, etc. It's just another extension of us good, them bad. Horror be definition is a cerebral responce rather than the viceral or gut response of terror. Horror is a person torn from their normal life and cast into darkness, forced to subsist on the blood and lives of others or face their own death. Terror is the person running from said vampire. These guys are as cold and clinical as the standard Liche and I remain unimpressed.
In effect, you would find a Vampire, or the realisation of you own fate as a blood sucking fiend (the ones you describe) more horrific than, say, Hitler, or the realisation that a man can be willingly corrupted beyond measure (only use him as a very well know example, there are countless others).
Am I correct?
It might also be a perspective thing. Horror from the realisation of your own fate as an undead is different from the horror felt when you realise what manfred's dhampiri are from an unaffected POV (ie: their next meal). Since you have played Vampire, I suspect that you may be more familiar with the internal sensation and realisation rather than the other horror?
(On a sidenote, I have no idea what a 'standard' Liche is, having never played d&d. Liches (the idea) seem vile beyond measure, compared to your description of a vampire, which makes the bloodsucker feel more like an unwilling victim one might pity.)
On a sidenote, I completely agree that nobody sets out to be evil. evil is not the end, it is the means. It is by making conscious 'evil' choices that I refer to evil.
I, Personally, am far more horrified by a man corrupting himself willingly than by the cold embrace of the undead.
In effect, what I am saying is: "Give me a demon over a tyrant any day."
Seeing the great discussion brewing here, a few words to the origin could be of use. I certainly like the concept of vampires, but seeing a few too many movies, where the ability to spawn made them little more than fast-breeding animals (or zombies of a different kind), I wanted something different. Seems like it was a success. :)
On to the discussion:
- Scrasamax correctly notes, that they lose a part of the trademark vampiric horror factor; but not without replacement
- the Kung Fu master parallel is an interesting one, and partially valid for the actual teaching... though it doesn't do justice to the seduction involved ("See, how easy the life is lost. It will always trickle away from you, and there is only little you can do to delay the inevitable.")
- just for the record, individual vampires of this kind - or of the 'standard' one you talk about - can be horrific or tragic, sensual or bestial. None of these features seem to be determined by their natures.
- agree that they don't just 'choose evil'. They choose immortality, or power, or simply greater control over their life. Evil comes afterwards.
Let me insert a little more on the seduction aspect... studying is a very elegant way of becoming a vampire. There is no one, who would make the starting decision for you - you are not bitten by something in the dark, and oops, you're a monster. Instead, you turn yourself into the monster, and you don't even have to notice. There will be just a small price to pay for all the bonuses, but it will grow in time... what a pretty path to evil.
So the beginning is much easier for this kind of vampire - you'll get the powers, a prolonged normal life, and the check on endless existence. But to some (relatively) decent folk, the horror known to classical vampires will come as well - if you don't feed, you'll die. With the added bonus of you being no victim at all... you made it all on your own.
(Okay, I'm running out of breath here, and didn't touch half of what I wanted; may add more stuff later. Anyway, it is a good exchange, and special thanks belong to dark_dragon for valiantly defending my cause. TY.)
Nice. I like the idea that it must be taught rather then treating it like a disease.
I like it. Its different.
Excellent idea, your take is very original. I do plan to submit another piece presenting an alternative hypothesis, thanks for inspiring me!
Happy to hear that - I like alternative explanations to things that seem to be well known!