The Vampire

None are certain how long vampires have stalked the shadows of Malorum. Since history has been recorded, there have been writings of the children of the night, immortals that preyed upon the blood of the living. Yet even before written word, when history was passed down through oral tradition, there were tales of blood-drinking shapeshifters, monsters that wore the form of men as easily as the form of beasts. Across time, men warred against vampires with varying success, striking by day when their powers were weakened, and hiding within fortifications or magical wards by night. But with the rise of Deadhaus, these battles shifted in favor of the vampires, and the war became a massacre.

By nature, vampires are solitary predators, save for a few human slaves to attend to tasks beneath their attention. Though they might commune with one another in instances of mutual interest, they prefer to stake out their own territory as a personal hunting ground. At times, they might create others of their kind by feeding their blood to mortals, but most of these progeny would set out on their own once they became powerful enough. For most of history, it was this solitary nature that prevented any meaningfully concerted effort against mankind, but with Deadhaus came Ngaztak, the Black Hand, and by his fury were the dead united. For the first time, a vast number of vampires rallied under a single banner, and the moon rose on a new era for them, just as the sun set on those who would oppose them.

Within Deadhaus, the vampires’ cunning and predatory instincts drove them to form an aristocracy. Most consider themselves superior, not only to the living, but other types of undead, yet their arrogance and scheming is more than compensated by their abilities. Their shapeshifting alone allows them to infiltrate human settlements to gather intelligence, support the frontlines as fearsome beasts, or escape from harm as clouds of mist. Their blood pulses with dark magic, making them formidable sorcerers, and with a blade in hand, a vampire becomes a blur of whirling bloodshed.

Of Vampires – I

Third of Auct, in the year 218 after Deadhaus

At dawn, on the fifth day of our search, we came upon the vampire’s dwelling, a ruined tower from the first age. Twelve of us stormed the lookout and rode down the mindless thralls that sought to warn their master. The knights wished to breach the tower on foot, to smite the wretch as it lay in its coffin, but I stood them down. That’s what it wanted us to do… to assemble in the confines of those ruins, dismounted, away from the sun.

From my satchel, I procured a flask, shook it vigorously, and threw it at the base of the tower, setting it ablaze with alchemical fire. For a time, there was no sound or movement but the kindling of the structure, and I wondered if we had come too late yet again. But then at once a portion of the stone wall blasted apart, sending pieces of it hurtling toward us. Two were killed outright, skull and ribs crushed. They were lucky. My satchel was torn from me, and a figure leapt out of the gap, over our horses, fleeing as it hit the ground.

We pursued our quarry from the burning hilltop, closing on its lead in a thundering charge. Under the light of day, it could not change its form to elude us, and its strength was but a fraction of what it would have been in darkness. It was still swift enough to outpace any man, but on horseback we were swifter. Sensing that we drew nearer, the vampire swerved from the open field and sought refuge in an abandoned church. I shouted for the knights to stop, to draw no closer, to hold position and allow me to retrieve my satchel from the tower, but they had been hunting the fiend for five days and had just lost two of their brothers. One of them dismounted and approached the church doors.

From the darkness inside, a voice poured out and stood my hair on end. “I invite you in,” it said, and the knight stepped forward.

“In the name of the Emperor, I command you to stop!” I shouted, and the knight hesitated, torn between my command and the dead thing’s power.

“I killed your friends. Their blood seeps into the earth, even now… it smells so sweet,” the vampire said, and the knight drew his sword in wrath.

“Stand down! Stay in the light!” I cried in vain. My chimes were left in the fallen satchel. I could not strike them to ring through the vampire’s voice. The knight stepped into the shadows. His screams followed shortly after, and the sound of tearing flesh. Others drew their swords, some dismounted. There was shouting, arguing. I tried to convince them that eight of them was not enough, not even with me, not without my implements. I lost command in the chaos. What followed… the blame lies with me… if I had but kept my satchel.

I lingered only for a moment as they crossed into the church. I saw it there in the darkness, glimpses of it, flickers of predation. It fell upon the knights as if from all sides, slicing into them, dragging them screaming into the shadows. They called for me, begging me to help them, but had I entered the church that day, then Deadhaus would have my secrets, and thousands more would have died. I turned my horse and fled, hearing my name fall into the distance behind me, until at last the church was silent. I retrieved my satchel from the tower and left its smoldering ruin behind. I dare not write what became of the knights… I can only pray that their deaths were the end, but that thought does little to still the echoes of my name as they called it that day… Alaric… Alaric.

– Alaric von Beller, Grand Inquisitor of the Thacean Empire

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