Vampirism is an infectious viral disease, resulting in higher iron consumption requirements, slowed metabolism, increased Imperium production, and improved healing and immune responses in its victims. Historical documents seem to show that individuals afflicted with the haemovampira virus (HVV) were often outcast from their communities, due to fears of violence or infection. Today the virus is better understood, with those choosing to live haemovegetarian lifestyles still openly welcome in many communities, although it is not without stigma. The virus' occasional use by Confederation TAGs to extend their lifespan and improve their magic reserves has added an air of suspicion around visits from unknown vampires.
Transmission & Vectors
Transmission of HVV requires an exchange of bodily fluid. Blood remains a well-known vector, but vampirism can also be transmitted through other, equally intimate fluids. There have been no known cases of transmission by sweat or saliva. The virus requires a vector into the body of a new host. Protection is therefore mportant when handling fluids suspected to contain the virus, and health experts recommend those with open wounds avoid possible exposure entirely. Those who interact with vampires regularly often don special protective equipment – typically also interwoven with protection spells – to limit opportunities for infection. Special anti-TAG combat teams in the Active Defense Legion are also assigned custom molded face masks in an effort to prevent inhalation of HVV-infected blood, in case they sever a vampire's artery. Of course this method of infection has also resulted in the collection of blood and other fluids from known vampires. Those who wish to become a vampire themselves have been known to periodically consume these fluids until successfully gaining the infection themselves. Some wealthier families within the True Descendants have made a business of collecting and distributing "accidental" infections from vampiric blood, selling immortality in an attempt to skirt the laws of the Natural Order.
Those newly afflicted with vampirism have much to learn about how to control their new powers... and cravings.
Dietary ChangesHVV alters the metabolism of its victims, severely decreasing their required caloric intake and slowing their digestion. Vampires can still gain nutrients through the consumption of food items, much as they did before contracting vampirism, but due to a quirk of the disease their taste buds no longer experience the flavors. Extensive research into possible treatment with Zokinesis or Gene Therapy have failed to counteract this side effect. Many vampires have therefore chosen to forego traditional foods entirely and instead rely upon processed high-nutrient condensed foods and vitamins.
IronThis change in metabolism also increases the afflicted's iron requirements, leading many to rely upon the consumption of blood for survival. A vampire suffering from iron deficiency will become weak, losing physical and magical strength each day. In severe cases a vampire could even contract Malady or, in severe cases, misattunement, due to a lack of iron. Obtaining Imperium from an external source such as Apotheturgy, arbitrium, or even direct Imperium consumption, can mitigate this risk.
ImperiumCourtesy of the virus, raw Imperium consumption does not have the same adverse effects upon vampires. Rather than contracting Imperium Toxicity, an individual afflicted with vampirism will merely experience severe stomach cramps as their digestive system attempts to metabolize the concentrated Imperium. They can also syphon Imperium from others in small, sustainable quantities through a rare form of non-consensual Apotheturgy. Tales of vampires feeding off of the spirits of others are believed to be a result of individuals witnessing a vampire using this skill.
Vitamins C and DThe consumption of Vitamin D in significant quantities weakens those with vampirism, leading most to avoid sunlight as well as the consumption of fish. On the other hand Vitamin C remains a popular supplement among vampires, as it allows them to better metabolize iron and therefore permits them to feed less often. Vampires attempting to maintain a vegan lifestyle rely heavily upon Vitamin C supplements to better extract iron from their plant-heavy diet.
AppearanceHVV does not cause drastic changes in its hosts' appearances, although all Vampires do develop sharpened canines to assist in drawing blood for feeding, unless their already had sharpened teeth. Vampires do prefer to avoid direct sunlight when possible, resulting in the paler complexion of an individual accustomed to remaining indoors, in an effort to counteract their weakness to Vitamin D toxicity and the burning heat of its rays.
ReproductionVampires can still reproduce in the manner of their original species, although infection of both their partner and subsequent offspring is likely unless sufficient precautions are observed. While not the primary reason for the Selkirk Family's reproductive practices, their use of Necromancy to remove still-developing offspring from the womb has the added advantage of preventing infection until a non-vampiric genetic profile can be taken.
Aging and PowerVictims of vampirism will no longer age in the conventional sense, but rather maintain their outward appearance forever. They will, however, become more powerful with age as HVV propagates throughout their DNA and the affliction provides them with higher Imperium production and stronger ties to the magical fields.
Body TemperatureHVV also drastically lowers the afflicted's body temperature. Some consider vampires to be cold blooded, although the majority of the scientific community rejects this classification because vampires still regulate their own body temperature. They are known for recoiling from sudden exposure to sunlight but in actuality this impulsive reaction is due to the accompanying heat, rather than the sun itself. Vampires are able to survive longer if exposed to the chill of the Void, a direct result of their lower temperature and metabolism. A surprising number of vampires have also learned Pyromancy, specifically for its heat transfer spells.
Currently, vampirism has no cure. At least, none that work on a living host. Still, scientists are constantly researching for potential treatments to tackle the disease.
Gene TherapyGene therapy has shown temporary improvements in curbing the symptoms of the disease, but as the virus itself also alters its hosts' genetics, these effects are temporary and require constant treatment.
HeatHeat-based treatments have shown remarkable success in weakening and denaturing the haemovampira virus, but due to the nature of HVV this heat also detrementally impacts its host. While most avenues of research have been largely abandoned due to the dangers to the patient, one research lab in the Space Defense Legion has claimed to have successfully cured the disease through this method, with some assistance from Gene therapy. Experts caution these claims have not been independently proven, especially since the patient died under as-yet mysterious circumstances mere weeks after the announcement.
LivingThe most effective treatments for HVV revolve around living with the disease and reducing its impact upon quality of life. To that end, iron tablets have become a staple for vampires, and many rely upon specially formulated food bars to consume their daily nutrient requirements. Since vampires lose all sense of taste, little effort is made to improve the the flavors of these nutrient bricks, but they are available in an assortment of textures to provide at lease some semblance of variety.
DyingIn extreme cases, an individual afflicted with HVV may opt for the use of a reconstruction clone, transferring their soul from their infected body to a new, uninfected host based upon their own genetics. This requires the availability of their pre-infection genome, due to the alterations made by the virus itself, although sometimes this limitation can be bypassed for the recently infected. Individuals afflicted for a long time may also find this solution untenable, even with a clean genetic code available, due to their acclimation to the enhanced magical capabilities accompanying the disease.
Dietary Requirements and MetabolismOnce infected, the afflicted individual will begin to crave foods rich with iron. HVV slowly dulls its victims' tastebuds until the only flavor they experience is the iron within each meal. The iron requirements of vampires can easily be met through the consumption of iron tablets or supplements, or by ingesting meats and even certain vegetables. Additionally, a diet rich in Vitamin C will help the afflicted to metabolize the iron they do consume, ultimately requiring less. Humans and dracoling will also discover their canines slowly developing sharper tips to better assist in tearing or puncturing their food, as the virus alters their genetics to suit its needs. The afflicted individual otherwise maintains their original dietary requirements, aside from a sizeable reduction to minimum caloric intake, courtesy of their significantly reduced metabolism and body temperature. The haemovampira virus begins to slow metabolism of its host by lowering their body temperature, maintaining just enough warmth to prevent freezing. Their lower metabolism, coupled with the virus' hijacking of their immune system with its own defensive methods, means those afflicted with HVV require much less Vitamin D and will therefore experience adverse effects including digestive issues, nausea, weakness, and kidney stones if too much builds up in their bloodstream. Over time most vampires learn to avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight and excessive consumption of certain foods such as egg yolks and fatty fish, to reduce the discomfort of Vitamin D toxicity.
Attunement and Imperium ProductionAs HVV inserts itself into the genetics of its host, it will also rewrite portions of their genetic code to enhance certain functions for its own benefit. Individuals who were originally unattuned will one day discover they are now Attuned. Those with limited Imperium reservoirs will discover their capabilities and stamina with magic expanding as the virus takes hold. The additional iron consumed by the afflicted is used to boost Imperium production, to provide for the haemovampira virus' additional Imperium needs.
Health and HealingVampirism also boosts the healing processes of its host. Initially this manifests as a heightened immune system, wiping out other infections even as HVV strengthens its own hold upon the afflicted. Soon, old wounds and then new ones begin to heal more effectively as the haemovampira virus works its way into the new Vampire's bone marrow. Upon full strength the virus will also repair any damages caused by aging, leading to younger appearances and an extended or possibly immortal lifespan of the host. The virus does not prevent death through other means, although it often enables its host to heal from otherwise-mortal wounds, provided they are able to remain alive long enough. As a result, a vampire can still be killed, provided the method is quick enough to overpower the virus.
Cosmic UnattunementShould the afflicted individual be Cosmically Attuned, they will lose this connection to the powers of the Void. While arcanologists and scientists have thus far been unable to pinpoint the cause, particularly since cosmic attunement does not appear to be a genetic trait, the most popular hypothesis states the virus hijacks its host's connection to the stars to force the body's dependence on its own agenda of survival.
DeathThe haemovampira virus requires an elevated iron intake to allow for an increased Imperium production rate, in turn fueling its own Imperium needs to continue its replication efforts. This is also why a Vampire can safely consume raw Imperium, suffering only a mild digestive discomfort, accompanied by an increased concentration of the virus in their blood steam. If the virus is unable to sustain itself on Imperium alone, it will consume what resources it has available to obtain the required energy. Infected who fail to consume enough iron will become misattuned, eventually suffering cascading organ failure as HVV forces the afflicted's cells to cannibalize what energy they can to support the virus' needs, unless the lack of Imperium is corrected quickly.
While theoretically the haemovampira virus could infect any attunable individual or creature, in reality the disease is rare outside the living sophonts of Vazdimet. Despite their high Vitamin C intake, fae have historically been the most negatively impacted by the disease, due to their genetically higher Imperium levels and the low iron content of the majority of their regular food sources, but steady advances in nutritional supplements have since resolved this complication. Vampirism requires a living host for its replication; Afterlife Intelligences are completely immune to the disease.
While exact opinions on vampirism depend upon faction and culture, most societies are accepting of those who have contracted HVV, whether they believe that infection to be an accident or a choice. In some circles, most notably among Confederation TAGs, vampirism is considered an advantage well worth the trade offs. Despite this, a great many myths surround those infected with vampirism, most of which have basis in facts.
Blood And InfectionWhile less common today, older tales of vampires describe nocturnal monsters seeking to drink the blood of the innocent, often infecting them with vampirism in turn if they survived the ordeal. While vampires of this nature do exist they are not the norm, and most planets have procedures to safely deal with this contagious criminal element. Blood contains high concentrations of iron. Vampires can smell iron, and would therefore be aware of blood as an iron-rich food source. Most vampires rely upon simple iron tablets or other dietary supplements for their daily intake requirements, although some will revert to drinking blood out of hunger, desperation, or an unhealthy nostalgia for the days when vampires' options were much more limited. When it comes to infection, ironically it is safer to be bitten by a vampire than to fight with one. HVV is not transmitted via the saliva and so an individual bitten by a vampire will not contract vampirism unless the saliva also contains blood, such as from an open mouth wound. When fighting, however, there is a greater chance of both parties experiencing open wounds which will increase the odds of an exchange of infectious fluids. This is not to say an individual should simply submit to any passing vampires seeking a return to blood drinking, but it is an important factor to consider when responding to such a threat.
Sunlight And GarlicVampires are not weak to sunlight itself, but due to their slower metabolism and lowered body temperature they are extremely vulnerable to heat. In addition, they experience Vitamin D toxicity at much lower concentrations and so prolonged exposure to sunlight could actually make them sick as they process that exposure into Vitamin D. This is also the root of the myths detailing vampiric aversion to garlic and related herbs, which are not harmful to vampires but actually quite beneficial due to their high iron and Vitamin C content. Vampires do, however, avoid the consumption of fish, particularly fattier fish with high Vitamin D concentration. Garlic and its cousins remain popular ingredients in many fish recipes, and have therefore been confused with the refusal to eat the fish itself.
Coffins And UndeathStories of undead vampires sleeping in coffins trace back to the days of Fillimet, before the War for Enlightenment. A complete lack of information about vampires, coupled with fear and prejudice from those without the disease, meant vampires without a mentor or vampiric family were forced to fend for themselves, finding what peace and shelter they could on the outskirts of society. Older graveyards became a popular choice for these abandoned individuals due to the low traffic and various cultural superstitions, and so it was not uncommon to find a vampire in residence within a crumbling mausoleum. The vampire's remarkably low internal body temperature, coupled with their reduced metabolism and heart rate, merely added to the superstition.
TransformationsOlder stories also claim some vampires could transform into bats to more easily consume the blood they crave. Tales of heroes pursuing a vampire until they suddenly disappeared were surprisingly common. Many of these included hearing a strange sound, like the beating of wings, shortly afterward. Historians are uncertain as to the exact origin of these particular tales, but suspect a vampire community of necromancers as the source of the ancient trope.
Stakes And BeheadingsThe use of vampirism to boost magical capabilities has required research into the safest and most effective ways to kill a vampire, for military purposes. Older sources from ancient vampire hunters often details options including beheading or staking through the heart. The simple truth is that both methods are equally effective, as is any method which kills the vampire immediately rather than relying upon them succumbing to their injuries. HVV boosts the immune system and healing processes of individuals afflicted with vampirism, but it cannot bring them back from the dead. Therefore the most effective way to kill a vampire is to kill them outright.