If you want to be a purist about it, we actually shouldn’t be called Vampires at all after embracing our Destiny. We’re really Verdilaks now. “Verdilak” is just another word for “vampire,” but who made “vampire” the default term, anyway?
All right, fair enough, that is off-topic. Back to basics.
We Are Given The Shadow’s Kiss, And We Must Give It As Well
The Shadow’s Kiss is the initiation of every Vampire. We were alive, we died, and then we became undead through the Kiss. At the moment our eyes open again, we are minor entities, almost analogous to the feeble last moments of our breathing lives. We repay the gift of the Kiss by devouring human life to feed it and we become strong, but we still haven’t matured at that point. We enter a kind of adolescence as we give someone else the Kiss, and yes, it really is very much like losing your virginity. Why is it the gateway for advancing in what we are? Perhaps because the human mind is linked to the idea that with maturity comes reproduction, or perhaps the power that makes us demands that we share its cursed gift. Who knows? All we can be certain of is that a Vampire who is created but never creates is usually a stunted thing, never quite at full development.
But obviously, you and I have both received the Kiss and given it, and we can only be seen as Vampires in full. However, the story does not end there. Having become nosferatu in the fullest sense, after a time—and the time is variable, depending on our own actions—we choose a Destiny, become Initiated in it, and then advance in our new way of being. But I am ahead of myself now…
The Five Destinies
The choice of Destiny is not a restaurant menu. What happens is a reverie of sorts. In the days that follow our first time of giving the Shadow’s Kiss, as we lay dreaming and dead in our lairs, we are beset by visions and fevered ideation. It is a deeper layer of our existence than any “subconscious mind,” but no less difficult to truly remember. Something speaks to us, and something inside us answers. We are drawn to something—a lightless infinite void hidden behind our eyelids, a memory of daylight from our breathing days, a sense of some higher consciousness speaking to us, the flavor of spite and suicide, or even the chill of our own unhallowed flesh—five fates, five points on a star, five urges… but only one calls us instinctively to follow it. Call it inspiration.
Let us look at the other four Destinies, briefly.
The Tenebrous Vampires, or “Shadowfiends,” have learned to call forth strange powers from the abyss that separates our world from forbidden universes. They are often associated with shadows and darkness, but it would be more accurate to say they are affiliated with absences of all kinds: Silence in the absence of sound, cold in the absence of heat, vacuum in the absence of anything… all the ways that nothingness separates and defines the world we know. They are, overall, too lighthearted in how they approach this serious subject. Perhaps it is how they cope with it?
The Amaranthine Vampires, or “Undying,” are supplicants to dead gods in exchange for a greater affinity for life. Though they can never live again, they learn ways to be as one still living… if it is an illusion, it is a most convincing one. They bring the heat of life to their flesh and walk with warm blood, and can bestow this “gift” upon others to boil their blood and burn their flesh. They may taste the simple joys of the living world and torture others with them. They are as gentle as the World of the Living itself: Red in tooth and claw.
The Lilin Vampires, or Succubi (Incubi, if you prefer) are drawn to chaos and passion. They seek pleasure and pain—all the tainted gifts of Maya and Hell, if you believe in such things. Some think of them as demons, but they’re no worse than anyone else that’s lost in their own selfish whims.
The most troubling are the Elect Vampires, self-styled as “Noble Vampires.” They believe themselves to have been chosen to exercise divine right among the undead. Who chose them? They talk of a lightless crypt in their souls, and of a spiritual voice with great power and importance that has spoken to them and promises to speak again. This voice… we have all heard a strange whispering in our minds during our dormant hours. Perhaps that is the entity the Elect have heard. They are usually strong, pleasant, well-spoken, presentable and seem to stand out in a crowd. In any case, they consider themselves bold leaders, explorers, fighters, decision-makers, all based upon a cold and amoral sense of righteous privilege and being guided by voices. God save us from the “chosen ones,” eh?
Now, back to our own matters… inspiration.
When the time of troubled day-death is past us, we know what we must do, and we are led to it by strange chance. Coincidences and “accidents” take us toward the Initiation. We “just happen” to open the right book, hear a sequence of conversational fragments, or… it could be anything. All that truly matters is that we are led by invisible forces to our Initiation. You know this now, though in retrospect it all still seems to be “magical thinking” and “pure luck.” You have no strings on you!
And that is what brings us to the Initiation. It’s the only absolutely required formal element of our Destinies, but it can never be avoided. It confirms us in our choice and stamps us physically, mentally and spiritually with the thing we have chosen to become. Other Destinies have their own way. Ours is known as the Rite of Invidious Resonance.
The Rite of Invidious Resonance
We are sometimes referred to as “Orphean” Vampires, due to the ancient Greek legend of Orpheus, a supernaturally gifted musician who (among other things) entered the underworld in pursuit of his dead wife’s spirit. Ignoring the horrible coinage of the word “Orphean” (they mean “Orphic”), there is something to the connection. A Verdilak has the ability to interact with the world of Death and yet remain in the world of Life, and a great deal of what we do is couched in forms of art.
The Rite of Invidious Resonance is deceptively simple. The Verdilak Initiate forsakes their own lair and seeks a concentration of death, venturing directly into its heart. A cemetery, battlefield, slaughterhouse, any number of places will do. What matters is the rich loam of death found there.
The way to this place is not safe or easy. We are called to prove our worth to… whatever it is that gives us our Destiny. Literary scholars might say we “answer the call to adventure.” Biologists might compare it to the perilous voyage of a salmon to its spawning ground. However you see it, we undertake a quest that brings us to the Initiation Rite.
The Verdilak Initiate chooses an appropriate place of meditation, and buries herself in it, digging deep into cold, dry earth, bones and ashes, rot and scavenging things. In the dead womb of the world, the Initiate becomes still. We cease to move, speak and think. We become inert and let our spirits flow into the World of the Dead.
There is music in death… a siren breath that is anchored in the undead. To be in our half-world, we must be a part of both life and death. Most Vampires turn their backs on death, clinging to the ways of life. Even Tenebrous Vampires are content to deal with the void from a safe distance. We, the Verdilak, do not. We learn to harmonize with death because we are also dead. We find the resonance in those who are unquiet in the great beyond and we sing them back to this world with us, as good Children of Orpheus should.
The Verdilak Initiation takes a variable time for different Vampires. Some of us return to activity in a matter of moments, others not for months or years. On average, I’m told we rise from the pit in three nights, newly awakened to our connection to the dead.
Some never return at all. It’s believed that they may be waylaid by the spirits of the vengeful dead, or that they succumb to “l’appel du vide”—the urge to leap into death forever. No one knows for certain, but the shades of the dead sometimes whisper hints to those who are willing to listen.
It is safest to be aided in the Initiation. This is true for all Destinies. With one or more other Vampires acting as our spiritual “midwives,” we are able to navigate the River Styx with less chance of drowning in the Lethe instead. Not every Vampire is lucky enough to know others of their own kind. When we do know one another, aid is possible, though it may come at a price.
The Juncture of Three Roads
When we have risen again, we stand at a crossroads in our unlives, and must choose again. There are three possibilities, all equally strange, beautiful and terrible. This is because the Verdilak Initiation shows us three Roads of the Dead by which they may return to the World of the Living at our beckoning call. We do not walk the road—they do.
First, there is the Road of the Shade. The disembodied dead (“ghosts”) can return to this vibrational plane on an aetheric wind, borne like autumn leaves on a silent breeze. They cross the unseen veil and act upon the “real” world with the power of a spirit unshackled by flesh and blood.
Second, there is the Road of the Flesh. The embodied dead in all their many forms—corpses, skeletons, bits and parts, even ashes and liquefied decay—are sung back to unnatural strength and vitality with our psyches. Given this crust from the feast of life, the spirits of the dead take action, either muddled by their flaws or focused laser-like by purposes yet unfulfilled.
Third and finally, there is the Road of Memory. It is strange and subtle, and oddly reminiscent of the way we are drawn to the Verdilak Initiation. You see, the dead remember and the dead still imagine. Their thoughts are a narcotic poison that can intertwine itself with the fates of those who are still a part of this world, rewriting them until the living (and undead) enact the still-active wills of those who are utterly extinct.
No Verdilak is able to call the dead down more than a single Road. We only ever advance in our skill at calling, commanding and dismissing the dead in the Road we choose. That idea, advancement, brings us to my next subject.
From Apprentice to Master
Certain truths about our Destiny shape us and what we can do within our new nature: First, what is undeath and how does it relate to death?
As you know, we are dead… yet alive. That’s often called “undeath,” which is a very imprecise way of saying that there is a third state of existence that is neither natural life nor natural death. There are a few different ways that a living thing can become undead, although curiously enough, no non-living thing can ever do so—if you could somehow build a conscious robot or call up an air sprite from some elemental world, they could never be what we are. That’s strange, isn’t it? Why should converting to an objectively third state of existence only be possible for one side of the animate/inanimate coin?
Patience, please, we’re discussing technical matters. It’s appropriate to look at the entire body of knowledge if you want full understanding of your situation. You’re one of us now and unless you plan to reinvent the wheel every day and “discover” things that were discovered long before your living years, you’ll give me a chance to go over all of it.
As I was saying… “undeath.” A very peculiar condition, almost like fuzzy logic, where “maybe” is as acceptable an answer to existential questions as “yes” or “no.” You know the quirks of our physical nature—needing legs to walk when our legs are masses of dead tissue and bone, etc.—but you may not have considered how they are shaped by what makes us possible.
As I mentioned, there are multiple methods of becoming undead, but as I haven’t mentioned, there are really only two ways that undeath can be sustained. An undead creature is the result of either its own will overcoming the life/death paradigm or the result of some outside power doing the same thing. We are not, despite our egocentric claims, returned from death by our own wills. We’re not even restored by the Vampires who made us; they’re just transmitting the Shadow’s Kiss to us. We are vessels of an outside power that reanimates us and imbues us with a hunger for the blood of the living—the “Shadow” in the Shadow’s Kiss.
This is important, and we don’t fully understand what it means. (Though the so-called “Noble” Vampires think they do.) Are we puppets? Are we pets? That’s more than a philosophical question, because whatever it is that made us, its power continues to this day. It isn’t an abstract question of theology or philosophy because you and I are here now, years after our deaths, talking about what we are and what we do. There are those who think that the power that sustains our undead existence has no thoughts or feelings or purpose, and they may be right. But what if they’re wrong? What if the things we do advance an unknown cause, whether we realize it or not?
In any event…
We are created and sustained in undeath by an outside power, and so we must always consider this factor in our dealings with other beings. None of them are reanimated by the same force that keeps us in the world, but some of them were made by other forces, and many of them resurrected themselves. If what we do with the dead is a matter of communication, persuasion and dominance, then our approach should be tempered by knowing what we are and what they are, and how the two relate.
The dead are awake to varying degrees. Some are barely able to think, and will take such a long time to ever collect themselves in the World of the Living that they might as well be eternally mindless. Others are half-awake, sleepwalkers dwelling in a hallucination that isn’t all in their heads. And some are entirely awake, clear and driven in their own wills and desires. The approach that lures a mindless shambler to the Road is not the same as the approach that cajoles a thinking creature. You must know what it is you wish to call up, and (to coin a phrase) to never call up that which you cannot put back down again.
As a result, some things we do can be accomplished by a willful gesture and other things need a theatrical tableau to be enacted. Like gods and devils, the dead want to be placated and charmed, addressed respectfully in familiar languages and given some sort of due. We Verdilak are sympathetic to their nature because it speaks to the death inside us. We can usually gauge what the best approach is to any given entity from the World of the Dead, provided we have experience and insight.
You will attain experience through action. You will gain insight by meditation and tutelage. Mortal books of necromancy have nothing to teach us, so there are very few texts to read, and all of them are written in secret by Verdilaks. We do not share this knowledge freely and easily. Most of the time, we are better served by contemplation and quiet ritual. When this is not enough, and a tutor is available, we enter into a period of study that can last years or centuries. Every tutor and student is different, but the purpose of such learning is always to know more of the great song of death that resonates in Verdilak and dead entity alike. This knowledge makes us stronger and more adroit in our Destiny.
You are impatient to know more. I applaud you in this, but I am not your teacher. That one is yet to appear in your unlife. Until they do, you will need to meditate on what you have been told and what you have already learned.
The tomb awaits you in triumph.
What Destinies Are, And What They Are Not
A Destiny is a set of special abilities that a Vampire attains as they attain experience in their unlife. They could use these powers in all kinds of ways; there are no “job descriptions” to go with them. Destinies are almost a kind of “maturation” for a Vampire—they are becoming more of what the Shadow’s Kiss has made of them as they take action in the world.
More experienced Vampires who embody these Destinies can teach other Vampires how to be better at them, but they don’t form “guilds” or “tribes” on this basis—this is less about being a plumber (guild) or TV show fan (social tribe or clique) and more about personal development. Destinies create shared areas of ability, not cumbersome sociopolitical affiliations.
As an analogy, imagine learning new languages or going to the gym… nobody forms a guild of French speakers or a tribe of free weights users. When you become a Verdilak Vampire, you are a lot more like other Verdilak Vampires than you were beforehand, but you’re still yourself, first and foremost. You associate with other Vampires who chose other Destinies in the same way you might mingle with any crowd of people that each have their own interests, wishes and tasks to perform. You may have more or less in common with one another, but beyond that, your Destiny does not dictate how you deal with the world.
In game terms, this means that your Player Character is very much a free agent, even with a Destiny. Upon creation, your PC has already finished their period as a Lesser Vampire and given someone in the world the Shadow’s Kiss, to become a True Vampire. After your character reaches the 10th Level of Experience, they must choose their Destiny. They then undertake a Quest, after which they are Initiated with a Rite and choose from the Roads of the Dead. After that, your play in the game will take your PC from Apprenticeship to Mastery in your Destiny.