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The Vampire is one of a race of creatures with origins in mythology, legend and folklore from all around the world. No one place can be stated as the true origin of vampiric existence, culture or society. Despite this, they do have close relatives in Greece; namely, the Vrykolakas, Mormo, Empusa, Lamia and others; in Romania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, there are Strigoi, Moroi and others; in Africa, there are Asanbosam, Obayifo and others; in India, there are Vetala and others. And many other relatives of true vampires exist, all around the world. Some even trace the cultural and ethnic origins of vampires, and attribute to them a connection to ghosts, witches and werewolves.
They are one of the few staple creatures of mythology, transcending numerous timelines and civilizations. There is no kind more common or widespread than another, despite prevalent depictions in modern fiction.
For instance, most vampires are vulnerable to sunlight; however, this does not always imply the same potential for harm. In some cases, the sun poses no threat beside simply hurting their eyes. Some lose power in the sunlight, becoming terribly weak and falling ill, but otherwise facing no danger. Others are burned as though their skin has been introduced to an open flame (with no instant fatality, so they have time to retreat from the sun's light). Still others are so sensitive that they will instantly burst into flame, or explode into ash with even the slightest contact from the sun. And others besides those can withstand harm from sunlight, but only after drinking blood.
This introduces the variation of blood sucking. Though most vampires need it to survive, the risk of not drinking blood varies within vampire breeds. Naturally, it prevents starvation, but some must also have blood daily to keep their power from diminishing. The longer they go without it, the weaker they get, until they are reduced to a comatose state (some might even die from starvation...). In addition, some need it to prevent dying in the sunlight, while others are vulnerable (or immune) to the sun's rays despite the amount of blood they ingest. Others suck blood simply to fulfill some depraved psychosexual desire. What's more, it is not uncommon even to see vampires feed for a mix of these and other reasons.
And some can sustain themselves alternately on human blood and animal blood, while others require strictly the blood of animals, or strictly the blood of humans.
On the other hand, some vampires maintain their powers (or their immunity to sunlight) even without blood. Some can even live without blood completely.
Likewise, vampires' connection to the afterlife and the underworld varies, as does their vulnerability to holy symbols and sacred texts. For example, some will recoil, suffer pain or even sustain injury in the presence of holy symbols or sacred texts; this often requires physical contact with the holy symbol, or hearing the sacred text recited. Some are greatly harmed by holy water. Some cannot leave a grave site without taking a sample of the burial soil along with them, in the coffin they were buried in. Some are even compelled to sleep in their coffins, for some reason or another.
Furthermore, the supernatural sanctity of the home is often enough to prevent most (if not all) vampires from entering them without permission. And the divine principle of flowing water is enough to keep some from crossing over running bodies of water, like rivers (this particularly affects older vampires and those they vampirize, or 'sire').
There is even variation in the means by which vampirism originates. Some are born vampires, from two vampire parents, like any other normal race. However, some can become vampires; this most commonly requires being bitten by another vampire, which transfers a virus or a curse; but it can also result from a curse directly laid on the subject; from practicing witchcraft of devil worship (Satanism or the like); from an improper burial (like being buried unbaptized); from drinking the blood of another person (or of a vampire); even from just having an animal walk across, or or jump over one's grave.
As one can imagine, these and numerous other vampire traits and weaknesses have several different variations (such as slaying vampires by a stake to the heart, beheading, holy water, exposure to sunlight or by fire); in fact, far too numerous to explain them all in just one article.
The appearance of the vampire varies slightly more than most humanoid species. Some studiers of vampire culture and society have even taken to dividing the appearance of vampires into several categories. For example:
-Chiropteran vampires- humanoid in appearance, but also combining the characteristics of a bat; perhaps they will have a bat snout in the place of a normal nose, or the presence of great bat wings; even perhaps beady eyes, bat fur covering their body, batlike habits or the inability to communicate beyond a series of animal squeaks, shrieks and clicks.
-Demonic vampires- humanoid in appearance, but with more infernal traits, such as fangs elongated more than normal, eyes slit like cats or reptiles, eyes that are particularly bright, a presence that is also disturbing to other vampires or even the presence of horns or claws.
-Draculian vampires- humanoid in appearance, dressed in aristocratic clothing (or clothes appropriate to the times); only barely distinguishable from humans or similar humanoids.
-Nosferatu vampires- humanoid in appearance, but slightly more ghoulish; gaunt, grim-looking and haunting; more easily noticeable as being undead.
Otherwise, their skin can be nearly any of the typical skin colors (though paler than most). Their ears may or may not be pointed. Their eyes can be nearly any color. They can have nearly any hair color, length or texture. Not to mention, the smell of death --or rather, undeath-- that clings to the undead, also varies (being more common among converted vampires than born vampires).
Though, for the most part, a few things remain fairly constant about their appearance and presence; their skin color is often paler than others of their ethnicity (no matter what ethnicity they belong to); most have a presence that frightens, unsettles or disturbs animals, and it is almost certain that when one has the misfortune to encounter a vampire, that vampire will have fangs (rather than needing blades or the like to draw blood).
Vampires are highly social creatures. Their feeding habits demand it. Likewise, they are highly sexual and fond of a decadent, partying, hedonistic lifestyle. However, their gregarious nature does not simply extend to potential prey. They are also known to live in large groups called covens or nests (though the term "coven" is more common if the nest is comprised mainly, or only, of females).
This hierarchical living arrangement often determines their behavior toward others in the group, as well as others outside of the group. The leader is often most powerful. They eat first, and eat the most. They may even eat it all if they desire, and the deference of subordinates means they will go hungry without a word. The leaders are often most gregarious; they are fondest of throwing parties, and come off as being much more charming than their subordinate counterparts (or 'unaffiliated' vampires, who belong to no nest of their own at all).
Beneath a leader is often a right-hand; a sidekick or assistant who is most dependable as far as keeping the others in check. This one is second-most social, and will often step aside if the leader decides to take the prey instead. They are the most fiercely loyal, the most patient with any changes in mood, and the most diligent in serving the leader. Therefore, they have the most lenience when interacting with the leader. It is not uncommon that the leader may take them as a lover (regardless of gender). And more than one of these may exist within the nest.
After the right-hand comes the elders. Despite what physical power they may possess, they are actually seen as having little to no importance beyond any insight they may offer; they often serve as little more than figureheads. They may be consulted first when making decisions for a vampire family/nest, but if the leader dissents from the elder's opinion, the elder's words are discarded equally by the leader's subordinates.
And beneath the elders, the subordinates themselves (also called grunts, lackeys, minions or one of numerous other demeaning, derogatory terms). They may be members of the lead male's harem, or manservants, or trackers, or hunters, or scouts, members taken in from another nest or the like, but their sole job is doing what they are told. They take the most abuse, sustain the most injury, and get the least respect of all other members of the nest. And woe unto them when higher-up members disagree in how something should be done. This often ends in pain, however they go about it.
But the lowest of all in the nest is a sycophant (also called a familiar or a "blood doll"). In truth, these are not even vampires at all; rather, they are humans (or other humanoids) taken in by the nest. They are either enslaved, indebted or desire to be numbered among the legions of the undead. As such, they offer their total allegiance as servants, scouts (for vampires unable to go out in sunlight) and the like. They may even occasionally be fed upon by their masters; though, until such time they are deemed worthy of being turned into vampires with a bite, blood is drawn with a blade and drained into a cup or glass.
The abilities of the vampire race are highly varied. They range in both the physical and the mental.
The most famous and most common of their physical capabilities lies in the use of fangs to tear skin and draw blood. These fangs may be always present, or retractable; sometimes they can also release a pheromone that makes the bite painless. The latter capabilities make it easier to interact with potential prey.
And with a bite, they may turn a non-vampire into a vampire. Sometimes this is purported to be the transferal of a vampiric conversion virus, while other accounts attribute the transformation to the supernatural passing on of a curse (since it can only be passed on by a bite, not a scratch or blood transfusion). Either way, few are immune, and it does not take long (from an hour to a matter of days) before the transformation is complete.
In addition, most vampires possess superhuman strength, speed, durability (endurance), stamina, senses, reflexes, agility, accuracy, dexterity and/or awareness (perceptiveness). Many are even capable of regenerating from injury at an accelerated rate (though some take longer to heal, some can heal from more serious injury than others, and some depend on drinking blood to heal).
Not to mention, in many cases, a vampire has no reflection (making him invisible not just in mirrors, but sometimes also through glasses, cameras and video recorders). Some have even been known not to cast a shadow.
Furthermore, many have some means of controlling foes and potential prey. This may come in the form of hypnotic charm, a hypnotic voice, a hypnotic gaze, verbal compulsion, or the like; even perhaps telepathic mind control.
Otherwise, their abilities greatly vary.
Some may have kinetic abilities (such as telekinesis, pyrokinesis, aerokinesis or hydrokinesis). Some may be able to walk up walls, fly or teleport. Some may be able to turn invisible, intangible (phase through solid matter), inaudible (producing no sound), inodorous (releasing no traceable scent) or even entirely imperceptible (untraceable by any of the five senses).
Some may have telepathic or empathic abilities. Some can receive clairvoyant precognitive, postcognitive (retrocognitive), psychometric or other extrasensory insight.
Some are even capable of shapeshifting, whether into various different forms, or one, predetermined form. For example, some can turn into a wolf, a mist (often red), a bat or even a swarm of bats.
In all, their capabilities are so various that they are almost impossible to pinpoint or generalize.