BLOOD-SUCKING SPACE-ALIEN VAMPIRES FROM HELL!!!
That headline and byline has been a standard on the Weekly Midnight Enquirer for over twenty years now, with every instance leading into some lurid story of alien demonic vampires performing acts that, even in this age of super heroes and dimensional invasions, seems just a little too extreme to be believed by any sane person. The problem, though, is that the stories are just a little too extreme for belief. Despite the headlines, they're never quite far enough out there to convince the reader that they aren't true, but instead leave the uncomfortable feeling that someone has just put something over, without being able to quite put your finger on what, exactly, it is. This has been the stock in trade of Gregor Țepeș since his first foray into journalism, when he gave the Weekly Midnight Enquirer its first million-dollar sales week in its history. He likes to say that he was ruined for honest work ever after. He also likes to say that Carl Kolchak was based on him, but that his only complaint is that Kolchak wasn't sleazy enough to be an accurate portrayal.
Enter, the Viper
For over eighty years, the exploits of one hero, The Viper, have remained continuously in print. The first book, Enter, the Viper, was published around the same time as the earliest tales of The Spider, Doc Savage, and The Shadow, and established The Viper's identity as a vampire private investigator and freelance hero for hire. The formula of two-fisted supernatural adventure has kept sales strong for over 300 novels and nearly as many short stories. Gregory Schwarzrose, the author, is well-known for his support for fans and willingness to investigate even the most outlandish of supernatural claims. Some fans claim to see similarities between some adventures of The Viper and some of the outlandish supernatural events Schwarzrose has investigated (but others vehemently claim those fans are "letting their imaginations run away with them").
Nearly six hundred years ago, when Radu the
Handsome Mad reigned in Wallachia as a vassal of the Turkish Sultan, twin sons were born to one of his mistresses, the only known children to have been spawned by Radu. By the time they were old enough to take up swords, both boys had become enemies of their father, due to the madness of his actions as ruler and man. So, when they were approached by their uncle Vlad, with the offer of immortality and the power to oppose their father effectively, they eagerly took advantage of his offer. In the centuries since, their only regret has been that, somehow, their father managed to find a vampire to steal immortality from, and so has dogged their steps to the present.
While Gregor has always used writing to entertain and inform, his brother Piotr, even when they were among the breathing, needed to be in front of crowds, entertaining with performances of acting, music, and dancing. As the Twentieth Century rolled around, the brothers took advantage of their differing interests to give their father separate targets to pursue - as well as more opportunities to acquire supporters from among the breathers. Now, while Gregor pursues his journalistic career and hunts magical resources in Paragon City, Piotr appears on stage and television (and, since the advent of digital cameras, in movies as well) from his home in Vancouver.
Despite his vociferous claims to the contrary, Gregor seems to attract the affection of the small, weak, and helpless as easily as flowers attract bees. For all his attempts to define himself as a sleazy slime who would do anything to get his next headline, he can't help but turn aside to help the little girl whose puppy slipped his leash, or the little boy whose kitten is stuck up a tree, or the 97# weakling who just got stomped by the Troll bruiser. He just can't help it.
As established in the Viper books (which may or may not be based in fact), vampires have a fairly standard set of powers and abilities. These abilities would, naturally, apply to Gregor.
- A vampire does not age from the date of his transformation. Barring violence, or a lack of blood for long enough to cause death from starvation, a vampire will not die.
- Strength, Speed, and Stamina
- A vampire is, on average, as strong as twenty ordinary men. The older the vampire is, the stronger. A newly-turned vampire, a comparative weakling by vampire standards, may only be strong enough to toss a VW, while a vampire with more than half a millenium under his belt could, with some effort, throw a cross-country tour bus. Coupled with the strength is a corresponding improvement in reaction times, so that a vampire caught in an explosion could easily turn to mist and avoid the damage of the blast, before the shockwave had done more than deafen him. In addition, so long as the vampire has unhindered access to a supply of fresh blood, his stamina is effectively infinite. Note, however, that this does not mean blood from a bag. Only living blood, fresh from a living partner, can provide what the vampire requires.
- A vampire cannot be harmed by weapons made of metal, of any kind. Including silver. In fact, the list of things that can harm a vampire is relatively short: fire, sunlight (with less effect as one ages and grows resistant), weapons made of organic materials (such as wood, bone, teeth, skin, or hair), and specific anti-vampire magics are the only things certain to harm a vampire. Running water does not harm a vampire, but it does produce a magical effect that hinders the vampire in crossing it, depending on the age of the vampire and the size and vigor of the stream.
- Even when injured, a vampire heals at blinding speed, as long as he has recently fed or has access to fresh blood. Barring a lack of blood, only an organic weapon lodged in the wound (for instance, a wooden stake through the heart) can prevent the healing.
- Heightened Sensitivity
- A vampire's senses are as potent as those of any wild animal. Like a bear, he can smell food from as far as three miles away. Like an owl, he can see on even a moonless night. Like a bat, he can hear the sound of a pin dropping on cotton batting at a thousand yards. A young vampire can, in fact, often be overwhelmed by his heightened senses, to the point of being unable to function. In addition to physical senses, a vampire can sense spiritual and magical presences as well, often with as much faculty as an experienced exorcist or sorcerer. Note that this does not give the vampire any sort of telepathic sense, unless he had such a sense before his transformation, although one learns to read body language, pheremones, and other physical cues with enough adroitness that the uninitiated could mistake it for telepathy.
- All vampires can take on animal forms, as well as an incorporeal, mist-like form. While the transformations can only take place at night, or at the changing of the clock (i.e., sunrise, sunset, or high noon), these transformations allow the vampire to run with the wolves, fly like an owl or a bat, creep into safe places with rats, or escape from locked rooms as a mist.
- Native Soil
- A vampire's greatest weakness is not, as most assume, his vulnerability to certain weapons or need for a special diet. It is, in fact, his absolute reliance on the soil of his homeland for rest. A vampire can not, under any circumstances, achieve any measure of rest unless he is in repose upon a bed made of the soil of his homeland. For the vampire's purposes, that soil may be the ground in which he was buried, the ground upon which he was killed, or (should such a thing be true) the land to which he dedicated himself in his breathing days. Modern vampires have, for the most part, solved their rest problem by carrying with them a thin bag, usually made of a strong, flexible, watertight plastic, in which is kept a few ounces of their homeland's soil. So long as the vampire has his bag of soil, he may make his bed anywhere and be assured of restful sleep. Without it, he will go mad and die from lack of rest.
- While sunlight cannot kill any but the weakest vampire, he can be weakened and pained by it. The experience of unprotected exposure to direct sunlight, for an older vampire, is somewhat akin to the experience of a migraine for a breather. A younger vampire (say, less than a century old), on the other hand, could very well burn to death in the sun's fierce rays.
- Holy Artifacts/Holy Ground
- While relics of divine nature do not directly harm a vampire, all vampires suffer from a form of empathic distress when exposed to the artifacts of the faith they pursued when breathing. Thus, a Hindu vampire would feel distress when presented with an icon of Ganesha, while a Catholic vampire would feel pain at the sight of a crucifix. No vampire can trespass on consecrated ground - whether it is consecrated to his own faith or that of another, it makes no difference. To the vampire, the act of consecration makes a temple, ashram, or Wiccan circle as inviolate as a home to which he has not been invited.
- Inviolate Home
- A vampire can not, under any circumstances, enter into any place that is someone's home, without a clear and direct invitation, whether spoken (including in sign language) or written. Without that invitation, even a flimsy sheet of mosquito netting is as impenetrable as twenty feet of reinforced concrete, as long as it marks the boundary of a home.
- A vampire cannot be seen in a mirror. Nor, for that matter, can anything on his person. Most modern vampires deal with this in their own homes with the use of CCTV to replace mirrors, but when outside of his home, any chance encounter with a mirror can reveal the vampire for what he is. Some argument remains as to whether the vampire is invisible to all reflective surfaces, or only to mirrors, but to be safe, the vampire tries to avoid any chance encounter with anything that could be considered a mirror.
- Vampires are allergic to Allium. Not merely garlic, but the entire genus. The scent of any allium species is enough to nauseate a vampire, while direct contact with the juice can cause weeping sores that will not heal until the contaminant has been washed away and the vampire has had fresh blood to boost his healing. In fact, the vampiric allergy is sufficient that one could conceivably kill a vampire with the juice of garlic or onions, provided one could prevent the vampire from washing it off and acquiring blood with which to heal himself.