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PostSubject: Vampires   Fri Feb 03, 2012 2:51 pm

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Vampires
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Introduction
Feared, detested, at times revered, Vampires are the infamous creatures of the night, beings of shadow, seduction, and deceit, which stalk the darkened corners of the world. Born of a union between mortal souls and dark energy from the Plane of Shadows, Vampires are undead reanimated by a far greater power than the average, shambling ghoul. Having lost their mortal nature, Vampires are infused with an unearthly power that makes them incredibly deadly opponents. The first Vampires were sired by Shar herself, and the entire race maintains a close, if tenuous, relationship with the Mistress of Lies.


Physiology

Externally, Vampires have very little physical difference separating them from their mortal brethren. Appearing as mostly normal examples of their progenitor race, the most common variance is a pallor of the skin; Vampires of all races appear as sunken, more faded versions of their former selves. Many appear far more sullen, even emaciated - all reflections of their true nature. Perhaps the most striking readily apparent feature are the eyes of a Vampire; upon turning, Vampires lose their previous eye color for a dark red color, though other colors such as purple, orange, or even black have been reported. The similarity between Vampires and their mortal brethren is what allows many Vampires to hide their true nature from the world, living in plain sight among their unsuspecting prey.

Internally, however, they could not be more different. While the arrangement or basic composition of organs does not change, this matters little, as the inside of a Vampire is completely dead. What remains after turning is little more than an inert biomass, serving no purpose whatsoever. Vampires have no need for food, drink, or even air, though many do partake of the three for personal enjoyment or reflex; they are completely sustained by the dark energies that now inhabit their body. Vampires cannot die of hunger, thirst, or asphyxiate; nor can they die from internal trauma, no matter how severe. Vampires only require the life force of a mortal victim to feed the darkness within. Vampires are unique among the undead for having the ability to heal wounds; the same dark energy that sustains them works to regenerate their necrotic flesh. Vampiric Regeneration is notorious for it's speed; terrible wounds inflicted have been known to heal overnight. This unholy gift, however, is tied directly to the Hunger, and quickens the Vampire's need to feed. What is interesting is that Vampires cannot be healed through conventional means, including potions or magic. These attempts will actually harm the creature, burning and causing immense pain. While a Vampire is physically dead, this does not diminish their senses, such as taste, smell, or the ability to feel pain. All Vampires are completely sterile, making it impossible for a Vampire to have any children, although this does not remove the ability to feel sexual pleasure.

The most well-known but misunderstood aspect of a Vampire is the Hunger, the insatiable drive to feed upon the life force of mortals. The Hunger is tied directly to a Vampire's dark nature; the unholy energies which sustain the creature demand continued sustenance, and will feed upon the Vampire's own meager life force if left unfed. The most common misconception of the Hunger is that Vampires require blood and nothing else. The truth is far more complicated. Vampires drain the very essence of life from a victim, feeding on their immortal soul. While Vampires often consume a great deal of blood from a victim, the blood itself is unimportant save as a medium of transfer. A Vampire's fangs are far more than simple teeth, to feed upon the ethereal. While the exact, unholy process behind the feeding is a mystery, the facts are that simply drinking blood does not sustain the creature; a Vampire must feed upon a living, breathing victim to draw power from it. The Hunger is far more than a simple desire; it is tied to a Vampire's continued existence. While the creature can live without feeding, the consequences are often far too costly and the drive too insatiable to ignore. Should a Vampire be starved, the dark energies will feed upon the sliver of untainted soul remaining to it, a process which steals the Vampire's last piece of humanity bit by bit until all that remains is an animal, warped in both mind and body. These feral Vampires are truly frightening creatures, baring their horrific nature in their appearance, scurrying along the underbelly of the world in a maddened attempt to feed the hunger that now controls them. Every Vampire fears the degeneration greatly, and even the most reluctant Vampire will eventually feed the Hunger out of terror. Enforced starvation is a favorite choice of punishment for those Vampires who greatly anger Shar. As it is, feeding satisfies the Hunger for a short time, filling the Vampire with strength and power, while denying the Hunger causes the opposite, weakening the Vampire and causing other physically debilitating symptoms such as sudden headaches, bodily pain, depression, aggression, and paranoia. Vampiric Regeneration in particular is directly connected to feeding; appeasing the Hunger allows wounds to heal more quickly, while denying it only increases the Hunger while the wounds heal. The most common form of feeding involves plunging a Vampire's fangs into a victim's neck, although any sort of bite will suffice.

New Vampires are created through a process called Siring, the details of which are an almost religiously-kept secret even for the most careless of Vampires. Whether done willingly or unwillingly, the process is the same; the Siring Vampire must fatally drain a victim, but stop just prior to death. In this state, the victim must either accept the offer of Vampirism by feeding of the Siring Vampire's own dark life force, or die. If the offer is accepted, the victim is filled with the Vampire's darkness before dying, only to be revived as a Vampire the next night. Siring is a dangerous process for both the Sire and the Spawn; many choose death before Vampirism, and in being fed upon the Sire may himself be drained of unlife. Siring is not a common process; not every victim drained of life is offered the gift of Vampirism. A common misconception is that a single Vampire bite places a victim at risk of full-fledged Vampirism. Unlike Lycanthropy, Vampirism is not a disease, but instead a far deeper unholy union between man and shadow. Through the process of Siring, entire bloodlines may be established from a single, powerful Vampire. Some Bloodlines even have great variances in powers and abilities, discerning them from other Vampires. The most common bloodline is still the bloodline of Shar herself; any other Bloodlines branch from the 'pure' line.

With Vampirism comes many unholy gifts. The normal Vampire can live for more than 800 years sustained only by the darkness, almost 8 times longer than the average human being. Unlike other long-lived creatures, Vampires maintain one form for their entire 'lives', never appearing any older than the age at which they were sired. With this great age comes prodigious skill, knowledge, and mastery over their own Vampiric Gifts; Elder Vampires, coming to the end of their unnatural lives, are some of the most dangerous beings in the Crystal Sphere. Vampires are also blessed with speed, agility and endurance of a caliber above their original species. As Vampirism can afflict nearly any species, their physical attributes vary greatly; the only common feature is that, whatever their birth, they are faster,stronger, or more agile than their brothers. This results in Dragonborn Vampires of titanic strength, or Kazuth Vampires who are among the swiftest, most agile creatures in the world. However, as humans are the most common species in the world, they also produce the most Vampires. Human Vampires have been known to be able to dodge arrows and catch swords with their bare hands. Vampiric strength is the strength of the dead; while they only have strength in the field capable of another human, they can never become tired or sore. It is important to remember, however, that these traits mean little without the skill to use them, and it is entirely possible for any Vampire, of any race, to be bested by a mortal of greater skill. Given their necrotic physiology, Vampires are completely immune to disease or poison; this has the added effect of making Therianthrope-Vampires completely impossible. Vampires also have a good deal of resistance to magic, though this does not include magically summoned stone or ice, as they are in physical existence. Vampires are blessed with more than just physical superiority, however. They are creatures of the Night, children of the Mistress of Lies, and have natural powers that demonstrate it. There is the infamous Vampire's Gaze, a powerful trait that allows any Vampire, upon making direct eye contact, to seduce, terrify, or confuse. Vampire's Gaze allows the Vampire to place powerful suggestions or vivid images in the victim's mind to achieve the desired effect, although the skill is greatly diminished should the victim know the truth about the Vampire's nature. There is Night's Embrace, which allows any Vampire to vanish from sight for a time at night; and Shroud of Lies, an ability that allows the Vampire to shield his or herself from the adverse affects of the sun for so long as they can maintain concentration. These skills are not just useful, they are essential to a Vampire's continued existence. The Vampire is a creature detested by the world, and hunted as a result. No matter how much stronger or faster or better a Vampire is, they are always outnumbered. The key to a Vampire's survival is secrecy.

Despite the Vampire's many gifts, there are just as many curses on a Vampire's existence. Much folklore is devoted to what kills a Vampire, and much of it is false. Vampires have no problem crossing running water, nor do they have an aversion to garlic; they survive a stake to the heart as easily as anything else, and they don't need to sleep in the soil of their grave. What is true, however, is the effect of silver on Vampires; the purity of silver greatly harms the impure-by-nature Vampire. Silver weapons leave vicious wounds that cause immense pain to a Vampire and take far longer to heal, and a thrust fatal to a human is fatal to a Vampire with silver. Lacking silver, holy magic, purified weapons, or blessed water also inflict a great deal of injury upon a Vampire. Vampires also have a great weakness to the Sun and by extension, fire. Unadulterated exposure to the sun causes immense pain to a Vampire, followed by severe burns and death. Cremation is another acknowledged way of killing a Vampire, and is often the fate of Vampiric corpses anyway.

Of special note are the Blessed of Shar; those few who have earned the Dark Mistress's favor are blessed with her own blood, Siring them in the way the first Vampires were born. These creatures are the beings of legend, immortal creatures with unparalleled strength and speed, who serve under Shar directly.

Origin and History
The first Vampires emerged in a time long before the rise of men, an era known to the Álfar as the Shadow War, a time when the servants of shadow contested the light for control of the world. In those days, it is said, there were loyal servants of the Goddess Shar upon Aeria, cursed to weak, mortal forms. They cried out for her favor, to make them strong once again; and she appeared to them, and allowed them to drink of her blood and grow strong again. And she gave them a command; to feed upon those that had cursed them so, and to allow them to feed of her dark power, to pervert the wills of Elf and Men. These first Vampires were more Wraiths than Men, and were tremendously powerful. They drained the souls of thousands; those few that survived were forced to accept darkness into their hearts, and be ruled by the desire to feed.

Whatever their origins, Vampires have been a plague on the world for as long as they have existed. Early human folklore spoke of phantoms that rose from the dead to drain the life from the living; it is assumed these were the Vampires of early man. Civilization has feared and detested them for centuries, and has more than not outlawed their existence, though there are signs that early men sometimes worshiped Vampires as Gods.

Early Vampires were all made to worship Shar; but as time progressed, and Vampires became more numerous and powerful, they erred from her worship, becoming decadent creatures whose only Gods were themselves. This angered Shar greatly, and led to a mortal order who hunts and tortures errant Vampires until they either go mad or profess their loyalty to Shar. Though a small order, and their attacks rare, when they get hold of an errant Vampire the results are quite horrific.

Culture
Unlike Lycanthropes, who are reclusive and hostile to each other, never forming groups, Vampires are more social creatures. Though the solitary Vampire is not unheard of, most Vampires are part of a larger social group, banding together to survive and live apart from society. The largest grouping of Vampires are the Clans, regional groups bound by siring bloodlines. Vampires have thus formed a unique culture, living in the darkest shadows of civilization.

Clans act as families, welcoming the newly turned and performing group Sirings. The relationship between Vampires can be very strong, often spanning hundreds of years. Sire and Spawn often form a sort of parent-child bond, as the Sire guides the Spawn into his or her new 'life'. The experience of becoming a Vampire is often quite traumatizing, especially so for those who were unwillingly Sired; the Clan acts as a new family to embrace them once their old family throws them out as a monster.

Vampires tend to be decadent, arrogant creatures, often viewing themselves as superior compared to normal human beings. Some choose to toy with their victims for months or even years, enjoying the power their nature gives them over mortals. Though they often respect other Vampires of the Clan, they often treat mortals as, ironically, something less than human.

Most Vampires easily hide their true nature from the world, and with the affluence that comes with their great age, tend to occupy high places in society. They are, however, endlessly hunted; to live as a Vampire is to constantly live a life of secrecy.

There are those, however, who loath what they have become. These Vampires shun the clan and the decadent lifestyle of other Vampires, and scour the land for a cure to their condition. Though often whispered of in story, there has been little proof of an actual cure for Vampirism; yet they search, hoping for the day they may feel the sun's warm again.


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Originally for Aeria by Pat.
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