The vampire is one of the strangest and most mysterious beings known on Aua. Partially aether-based, it is a parasite that lodges itself between its host's physical body and its soul, creating the type of being that's commonly referred to as the vampire. These vampires are creatures of the night; they're over-sensitive to light and they feed on blood. They're powerful magic wielders, they don't die of old age and they're almost impossible to get rid of.
Exactly what the vampire parasite is remains a mystery. It is unknown how it came to exist or when it first appeared. Much of the details of how it functions is unknown and most of what is known comes from interviews with those infected by the parasite – and as such may not be entirely accurate.
A vampire can infect any warm-blooded mammal but they prefer members of the sentient species. Humans and anfylk are the most common targets for infection. Elves can be infected, but due to their superior resilience fully taking over an elf takes longer and is less likely to succeed than with humans and anfylk. It's technically possible for elven half-breeds to be infected by the vampire parasite, but due to the close relationship with their deity the success rate of the take-over is virtually non-existent. Dwarves aren't mammals and can't be infected.
The parasite uses magic to control the body of its host and it uses the soul of the host as a catalyst for channelling the aether it needs for weaving that magic.
Once the vampire parasite has activated in a new body it starts to establish itself on the connections between the body and the soul of the host. Depending on the individual this takes from a few hours up to a couple of days or, in the case of elves, even weeks. When a vampire has fully taken over an individual a few significant changes to the body of the host occurs. The first and most important one is that the body dies due to its connection to the soul being severed. As the body dies all normal body activity, such as breathing, digestion and regeneration, ceases to function. The body also becomes increasingly sensitive to light.
If the take-over is discovered before it is completed it can be stopped and the parasite removed from the host. If this is done in the early stages of the take-over the infected being has a high chance of making a full recovery. The experience is still traumatic though and extensive therapy may be needed for years to come after the incident.
If the parasite is removed in the later stages of the take-over it is unlikely that the host will make a full recovery and often does not survive at all. This is still considered to be preferable to letting the vampire establish itself within the host. Those who do survive the removal of the parasite but who don't fully recover will suffer something called Semi-Detached Soul Syndrome. It's a condition where the individual is unable to tell their dreams and memories apart from their experiences in the real world.
With the death of the host's body all automatic processes such as breathing and digestion cease to function. Perhaps most significantly the automatic regeneration of the body stops. No new cells are created when old ones fall off and die. Wounds and injuries do not heal.
While wounds and injuries are obvious sources of damage the daily wear and tear of simply moving around is just as damaging in the long run. The body needs constant maintenance in order to stay functional and to prevent deterioration and even rot.
Unfortunately for the vampire its magic is not strong enough to keep the body in shape on its own. It can't recreate lost body tissue from scratch; it needs something to work with. This is where the blood comes in. The vampire is able to consume the blood of other living beings of the same species as the host and use that to renew its body. The blood is transformed into the tissue the vampire needs to mend its damaged body.
The day to day maintenance of a body requires relatively little blood. As the vampire grows older in its body it requires less and less as it learns to utilize the blood more efficiently with respect to the host body's needs. To heal more serious wounds or regrow severed limbs significantly more blood is needed.
All vampires are sensitive to light by a degree proportional to how long they've been within their current host. The longer the vampire stays with the same host, the more sensitive it is to light. The cause of this is a flaw in the magic the vampire uses to create new body tissue. For some unknown reason the tissue becomes sensitive to light and while vampires are very aware of this they've not been able to develop another way of creating the body tissue they need. The method appears to be genetically hardcoded into the vampire and no matter how they try they seem to be unable to change it.
Brief exposure to sunlight will cause serious burns even in a young vampire and can cause an older vampire to instantly combust. A freshly created vampire can venture outside on clouded day or in the evening just after the sun's disappeared beneath the horizon. Soon though, within a year of being created, a vampire will burn and die even from such indirect sunlight.
Later on, perhaps ten to twenty years after creation, the vampires sensitivity to virtual light, such as from light-bulbs or old CRT television screens has increased to such a point exposure to it will damage the vampire. The light from more modern TVs (LCD, plasma, LED) is less dangerous for vampires, but it's still damaging enough that vampires long within the same body are not able to watch TV or use computers and smart-phones.
The only light that doesn't seem to hurt a vampire no matter how old is that from candles or burning wood or coal. However, the light from certain burning metals, such as magnesium, can be as damaging to a vampire as direct sunlight. On top of that the vampire's body is highly flammable and being set on fire is almost as lethal for a vampire as being exposed to direct sunlight.
The danger of virtual light and the risk of fires mean that vampires spend most of their existence in complete or near complete darkness. Fortunately their magical abilities are such that they can manoeuvre with ease even without light.
All vampires are skilled and powerful users of magic. They're able to both channel and weave the aether. The main use of a vampire's magic is to control and maintain its host's body. However, vampires are able to use magic for other purposes as well and most of them have one or a few specialities where their magic is especially strong. These specialities are similar to the Soul Magic exhibited by some elves, but not as powerful.
In contrast to elven Soul Magic the magical specialities of vampires are almost always geared towards aiding the survival of the vampire. The regular need for blood limits where vampires can make their homes with large cities being the most common habitat. Vampires are almost universally unwelcome and survival is a definite concern. Improved physical abilities, illusionism and mind control are common magical specialities.
This tendency for vampires to have a few magical specialities has given rise to the idea that there are several different types of vampires, classified by their magical abilities. However, there is no scientific evidence of this and the currently accepted theory among those who study vampires is that there is just one type. The different magical specialities are considered to be traits of individuals rather than of different sub-species. There are also theories that the magical speciality of a vampire is determined by its host and that the speciality may change if the vampire moves on to a new host.
Any kind of physical activity requires constant use of magic, meaning the vampire is constantly channelling and weaving the aether. The weaving part eventually becomes subconscious and happens automatically with more and more ease in everyday situations. The amount of channelled aether needed for physical activity is only slightly reduced as the vampire gets accustomed to its body. There's a limit to how efficiently the channelled aether can be utilized.
To assist with this the vampire uses the soul of its host as something of a catalyst for the channelling. In this way the soul is set up to constantly channel the aether the vampire needs. Unfortunately, even when physically active the amount of aether needed isn't constant. This often leads to more aether being channelled than what's actually needed. Vampires handle this by channelling the overflow aether back into the soul of the host which allows the channelled aether to dissolve back into its natural state. Unfortunately, this process erodes the soul, damaging it beyond repair and eventually destroying it completely (this is also why no other beings are able to dispose of excess aether in this way).
Fortunately for the vampire, toggling the automatic channelling on and off is relatively simple. This allows the vampire to reduce the erosion of the soul to a bare minimum. Vampires in resting state, even if just for the day, will always turn off their automatic channelling to avoid damaging their host's soul more than necessary.
It's also possible to adjust the amount of magic that's channelled but it's more complicated and takes more time. Generally this is only used when a vampire plans to enter a resting state for an extended period of time while still needing to keep an eye on their surroundings. Eventually though, the host's soul will have disposed of enough excess aether that it's no longer able to sustain the vampire parasite and a new one will be needed.
Change and ReproductionEdit
New vampires are created in two ways, either by the parasite transferring from one host to another or by the parasite splitting into two with one of them taking over a new host. The transferring from one host to another can be either direct or remote, while the taking over of a new host by a split parasite can only be direct. Vampires will generally transfer or split only when they feel their existence is threatened or when the soul of their host is about to expire.
The benefit of transferring when threatened is that with the new body the vampire takes on a new appearance and a new identity. The new body will initially be less sensitive to light and as such it is more mobile. This gives the vampire a great opportunity to transfer to a new location and set up a new base of operations. The drawback is that the vampire is unaccustomed to their new body and they may not be able to control it as well as their old one. Despite this a vampire under threat of being discovered and located is more likely to hide and disappear than to stay and fight.
Direct and Remote TransferEdit
Direct transfer requires the vampire to be close enough to the new host to be able to physically touch it. Remote transfer has no such requirement but can occur over much larger distances. Usually remote transfers happen within the same city, but no upper limit to how far away the new host can be has been confirmed.
Direct transfer require only that the vampire is able to physically touch its new host, no other preparation is needed. Remote transfer requires that the vampire has fed from the new host at some point in the past few years without it being discovered.
Whenever a vampire feeds from another being, no matter what the race, a dormant vampire seed is planted into that being. Unlike the parasite the seed is wholly physical and until it's activated it can be detected through medical examination, both magical and non-magical. Once detected the seed can be removed by treating the subject with antibiotics. It's also possible to terminate the seed with magic but this is more complicated and risks damaging the subject. The seed, if undetected, can remain dormant within a body for years, but will eventually expire.
To start the remote transfer the vampire performs a simple ritual of which the main part is the total consumption of the remains of their current host's soul. This is what enables the parasite to remotely activate a seed in a new host and to transfer its personality and memories to the new parasite taking root within that host. The entire process takes only a handful of hours and by the end of it only the dry corpse of the old host remains. The part of the parasite that exists in the material world is destroyed during the ritual. For the new host this is where the parasitic take-over begins and within a couple of days the vampire is active again within a new fresh body.
The ritual of transfer will fail if it is interrupted, but once it is completed there's no way stop the parasite from activating in a new host.
For direct transfer no ritual is needed. The parasite is transferred from one body to another orally; from the mouth of the old host to that of the new one. This is often referred to as a vampire kiss or a kiss of death. Once the kiss is over only the corpse of the old host remains, just like with remote transfer.
The other main difference between remote and direct transfer is that with direct transfer the vampire brings the soul of the old host with it into the new body. This unbalances the connections between body and soul in the new host, enabling the parasite to take over the new host in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise; minutes instead of hours and hours instead of days, making a direct transfer nearly impossible to stop once it's begun.
Instead of transferring from one host to another the vampire parasite can split itself into two new identical parasites with one of them transferring into a new host. This is also referred to as Vampire Division. This process can only be executed directly. Splitting to a remote body would require the consumption of the entire remaining soul of the originating host, leaving the remaining parasite in a host with no soul, effectively killing it.
When the parasite splits itself it also divides the soul of its host into two halves. When one of the parasites transfers to its new host it takes one of these halves with it, using it to speed up the take-over. Once the take-over is completed the parasite splits the soul of the new host and sends one of the halves back into the originating host, there to sustain the other parasite. This exchange is ironically referred to by vampires as the kiss of life.
Vampire division will leave the vampire with two souls within same body, potentially even more if the vampire has split in the past. This provides the vampire with the ability to channel multiple streams of aether simultaneously, giving them better influence of how their subconscious magic is handled.
Post Division EffectsEdit
There are two important side effects of vampire division. The first one is that after the parasite has split both new parasites have the same memories and personalities. The second consequence is that the two new vampires share a mental connection that allows them to sense the presence and mood of each other.
The sharing of memory between the two parasites effectively means that all vampires carry with them the wisdom and experience of the extremely old. It is not known how long ago the first vampire came into existence, but it is commonly accepted as true that all vampires can trace their lineage back to one single individual. Vampires pride themselves on having good memories but even so it is impossible for them to individually recall everything they've experienced through the millennia. But, were they ever to cooperate they would likely be able to retell the history of the world as they experienced it since a time long before the elves arrived on Aua.
Memory is only shared between two split vampires. Two vampires not originating from the same vampire division will not share the same memories until the split where a single vampire divided into their respective ancestors. As such, vampires in different parts of the world may have wildly different memories and impressions of history. Eventually though, the further back through the millennia they go, they will find a common ancestor and common memories.
The sharing of personalities along with memories allows the vampire to cooperate very efficiently for a while after the split. They perceive the world in the same way and they reason alike. This is further supported by the mental connection they share. Still, as time goes by, the mental connection grows weaker and the personalities grow apart. Most pairs of split vampires will have gone separate ways within a few years of their division.
At this stage the link between the two vampires will have grown as weak as it will get. It will never disappear completely, but it will go from being able to precisely share complex emotions to vaguely sense the presence of the other. This serves as a sort of safety net for the vampires. Should one of them disappear the other one will notice and be able to get to safety.
A Vampire's ExistenceEdit
With the vampire's wisdom, experience and powerful magic and with their ability to multiply or remotely transfer to other hosts it is extremely difficult, not to say impossible to get rid of a vampire that's settled somewhere. Then why, one might ask, haven't the vampires taken over the world, enslaving its inhabitants and making themselves the overlords of all living beings?
There are two answers to this question; “how do we know they haven't” and “they don't want to”. After all, vampires are powerful magicians and it wouldn't be unthinkable for them to control or influence the minds of politicians or business men. Perhaps they already are directing the world more than what people in general are willing to believe, or perhaps they just don't care enough to put in the effort. Likely, it's a little bit of both.
Another relevant question is “why aren't there more vampires” and the answer to this is much more straight forward; Vampires are solitary beings who don't enjoy each other's company and who don't like competition. It's rare that more than one or two vampires exist in a city and even then they do their best to steer clear of each other. They often reason that it's better to keep a low profile and stay safe, than to get discovered and be forced to flee.
Flee is usually what a vampire will do once their existence is discovered. They're more than capable of standing their own in a fight where they're not surprised by lights or fire, but they're also aware that once the hunters have found them, they won't stop coming. Vampires are almost universally reviled and no civilized nation has any laws granting vampires rights as citizen or even recognizing their right to exist.
Most nations consider vampires a threat to society and will actively encourage and reward the killing of vampires. Vampire hunters are well organized and efficient. One group of hunters disappearing, even under perfectly normal circumstances, will prompt thorough investigation by other groups, eventually leading to the discovery of the vampire. Even then, a vampire would most likely be able to handle themselves but it's simply better to avoid the confrontation completely. All vampires have memories of being discovered and hunted, most of them multiple times. They know the risk and they don't appreciate it.
This motivates vampires to stay hidden, feed only when they need to and to transfer or split only when necessary.