Vampires on Alterraden are as unusual as they are in most other urban and dark fantasy. However, Alterraden vampires do not exist as bloodsuckers (in fact, being referred to in any semblance of a blood sucker is a major insult for them.) They live by siphoning off emotional energy with a small modicum of quick-to-digest foods.
I won’t be covering how the vampires actually came about, as this will be the core concept in an upcoming series (Intu’s Wars). Instead, I am looking at what the vampires are, along with how they are organized.
The vampires consider themselves twice-born. The first birth is to their mortal family. For most, there is a reason why they cannot stay, and so wander off into the wilds to see some way of “redeeming” themselves in the eyes of their mortal (first-born) clan or family. It is the emotional emanations that attract their progenitor.
Once the first-born is singled out by a potential progenitor, they are then courted by the twice-born until either the once-born proves beyond doubt they are not a good fit for the twice-born’s House, or agree to begin preparations for their rebirth.
The rebirth process is fairly straight forward – they are brought to the peak of the courting House’s emotional state, then the once-born is drained of blood until just before they are dead. (This is the only time most twice-born deliberately seek out blood.) At this point, the twice-born will give their blood back to the once-born so they may cross through the rebirth process into their second life.
Not all isolated first-born beings are accepted, or even sought after, for the rebirth process. Each of the five Houses: The Intuii, the Norvotii, the Visikor, the Imutii, and the Felicoff. And, please, even though the Alterraden vampires can walk under the light of the sun, do not think they are all happy-go-lucky sparkly ones!
In appearance, all twice-born can blend into once-born settlements with ease. The only real tells that you are talking to a vampire are: they live for a very, very long time. While none have died of old age, many have been killed during various conflicts or inter-house squabbles. The other is that when a vampire sleeps – you are not going to wake them up until they are ready to get up. Their dwellings can fall down around their ears because of a violent earthquake, and it would not penetrate their sleep-induced torpor.
Physically, they are much tougher than other once-born beings. Being twice-born, they feel no pain, unless it is life threatening. They move about twice as fast as once-born, and if they have a supply of appropriate emotional energy, can go months between “real” meals. A few older, or stronger, vampires can go months between energetic feedings as well without losing any of their abilities.
The last set of abilities all twice-born have in common are enhanced senses – which contribute to their preternatural speed. Most choose not to adapt their perceptions through the heightened senses to the noise and light levels of a normal day. As such, they tend to sleep during the day in order to be active at night, when the world is naturally quieter and darker. (Thus perpetuating the myth that vampires cannot exist in sunlight – a believe held strongly enough that for many exposure to sunlight is enough to kill them.)