- a/state – Contested Ground Studios
- Complete Guide to Liches: Philolich – Goodman Games
- The Lords of the Night: Vampires – Bottled Imp Games
- Blood and Relics – RPGObjects
THE LORDS OF THE NIGHT: VAMPIRES – THE STORY BEGINS
Something wicked stirs in the mortal realms and the arrival of a second power…
* * * * *
My name is Enkilash Morrodan and I am a wielder of the Arcane and member of the Conclave in the city of Kethak (although those words will mean nothing to you now). I was there at the start; in those unknowing days of twilight when the shadow rained down upon us all. As day turned to dusk and dusk to night, and all hope failed, those of us with the foresight took measures, desperate steps to withstand the coming tide of darkness.
This is my story of shadow and the efforts I took to survive what came with the rise of evil.
I was present at the very beginning when the long night fell down around us. I endured much through those endless days and as I peer into the gloom that is the dawn sky, I shall recount a time before, when I was still mortal, still breathing. It is not my place to say how the mortal realms fell to twilight, but how fate dragged me into the battle for the mortal realms themselves.
* * * * *
It was unbearably hot. Constable Berren stepped through the sauna and pulled pensively at his jacket. Already a thin trickle of sweat ran down his back and beads of perspiration formed on his brow. The council had refused to hear his words together, so it was time for desperate measures. He was just grateful that the steam obscured him and he prayed that no one would see him, standing in the royal sauna, in the middle of the day, fully clothed, boots and all.
“Magister Alvand?” he said, peering through the steam. “I must speak with you.”
Magister Alvand looked up. “Berren?” he said quizzically.
“Aye sir.” Berren replied, moving towards the bulk of the Councillor. “It is me. I need to speak with you, urgently.”
“You’re hardly dressed for the occasion.” Alvand chuckled, then seeing the seriousness on the other’s face, patted the wooden bench beside him. “Come, sit beside me and tell me your most pressing news.”
Berren sat beside him and wiped his face with his hands. “It’s about the deaths.” He said over loudly, looking around at the wraithlike faces that watched him curiously through the mist. He unbuttoned his jacket and waited for Alvand to respond, yet the Magister watched him without comment.
“It’s been three months.” Berren said, more quietly. “And nothing’s changed. If anything matters have only grown worse.”
The Magister sniffed. “It’s barely afternoon on my one day off and you come here to tell me about the killings. I’ve heard it all before Berren. From you personally, many times over.”
“But Magister.” Berren protested, “It’s not like it was before. In fact it’s worse than ever. Rumours whisper that the Guild of Thieves are about to pack up and move to pastures new. They say the night is no longer safe for them.”
“That’s no bad thing, Constable.” Alvand said.
“It is when the people are afraid to go out at night and that the City’s on the edge of panic.”
“I know Berren.” Alvand said blandly. “That’s why we pay you so much to lead the Watch.”
“But we can’t cope.” Berren whispered conspiratorially. “I’ve told the Council, but they aren’t listening. I don’t think they want to hear what I have to say. But we can’t do any more. We can only guard so much of the city and the deaths are getting more frequent, and stranger.”
“How do you mean, stranger?” Alvand asked, leaning forward and pouring some water onto the coals with a wooden ladle.
Berren frowned as fresh steam rose up and washed over him. “I mean that the deaths aren’t normal. We’re finding corpses with their heads ripped off. Bodies with their throats cut out, and worse. Bodies with a thousand tiny bite marks on every inch of their flesh.”
Despite the intense heat, Alvand suppressed a momentary shiver, “Where is this happening?”
Berren shrugged, “Well it was near the market district, at first, the bodies were found in Darke Alley, but over the months, they’ve spread. Now they’re everywhere. And there’s only one thing that connects them all.
“And that is?”
For a moment Berren looked grave before replying.
“That every corpse has been completely drained of blood.”
* * * * *
I was there, sitting in the steam. I heard it all, every gruesome detail. I heard that the clerics could not restore those slain by the mysterious creatures that had killed so many citizens of the City. I was there minding my own business, but fate had dragged me kicking and screaming into the coming twilight whether I wanted any part of it or not.
At first I only dreamed about the deaths that Constable Berren had recounted to the Magister. Corpses found, pale flesh, wide staring eyes and fear filled expressions. But as the nights went on, I began to do more than dream about the murders.
I began to see them…
Night and day blurred; the day was filled with death and the night brought fresh nightmares. I thought the steam of the sauna would wash away any taint the murders brought into the waking world, but they came back inexorably weaving themselves into my mind. Every time I closed my eyes I would see a flash of pallid skin or glimpse of gore-stained corpses lying in darkness. The dreams of death haunted me; they occupied my every waking thought.
Finally I could stand no more. I was barely sleeping, my mind awash with thoughts of the dead; so I did the only thing I could…
I went to Darke Alley, in search of answers.
Darke Alley was a street seemingly like any other. Facing on to the docks, it didn’t seem to lead anywhere; it merely ran parallel to the market, a narrow alley with buildings that over hung the street, the cobbles dark and dirty. To the left I saw the back doors of many restaurants, shops and taverns, while to my right was nothing but the tall dark stone of the City wall. I could hear ships in the harbour beyond it and the shouts of the sailors as they went about their business.
I stood there in the gloom staring at the walls and making shapes in the russet stains that marked the cobbles. I knew only too well what had caused them; I could see the carnage, could smell death on the air; the very stone seemed saturated with death, an utter permeation of evil.
I did not shudder, even though flashes of doom blazed before my eyes; the blood of the innocent, the corrupt, the fat and the thin, the young and the old. I saw them all, each of them lured to this street by some terrible force of shadow. I saw the deaths of priests and warriors, paladins and the fallen of gods that had no name.
And I stood there watching, forced to endure whatever sights Darke Alley forced upon me, and realising just one thing: that this had been happening for a very long time; far longer than any would realise. Even before the City existed, when it was just a tiny settlement, no more than a village, the death was there. It was focused on the spot upon which I stood; a sinkhole of the most palpable evil.
Released from the vision I stood; beads of sweat formed on my brow and the taste of blood gathered upon my lips. I retched into the shadows, vomiting nothing but air and the fluids of my stomach. I clutched at the wall, violated by the images that ravaged my thoughts.
I knew even then what had caused the deaths, but I could not say it. I did not have the courage or the voice to utter the words…
But as I left Darke Alley, my presence had been noted.
I was being watched
I suppose, upon reflection that I was naive to think I could mindlessly wander into Darke Alley unnoticed; that my presence there would be so easily dismissed. I was a pawn, given the visions for one reason alone, although that reason would not become clear to me for a long time to come…
Perhaps the Powers of Light had sent them to me, but I had no inclinations towards the clergy or to become a force of the purest good. I was just a simple man who had neither ambition nor desire to be elevated beyond what status life had given me.
I wanted nothing more than an end to the visions. To the haunting deaths that surrounded me.
Yet regardless of my personal desires, fate had another path in mind for me.
Over the coming weeks the visions returned, stronger than ever. Constable Berren and Magister Alvand met weekly in the Royal Sauna, discussing their fears for the future in hushed tones. I sat in the steam unnoticed, free to listen, my skin prickling as they recounted the week’s happenings.
The dead were vanishing from the City morgue. Days later, people were seeing mysterious glimpses of their recently slain relatives. Fear of the unspeakable horror was upon everyone’s lips.
The walking dead were among us, and things would never be the same again…
But what was my part to play in the future?
I knew that to be free of the visions, I would have to pay another visit to the source of the darkness. Although it terrified me beyond mere words, I knew that I would have to reach the end of this path, or be sent stumbling into madness in the process.
I would have the find the truth, which meant only one thing.
I would have to return to Darke Alley…
It was long after dusk when I returned to the shadows of Darke Alley. The town crier had gone to bed and the only sounds were the jangling of bells and the lapping of water against the boats in the jetty.
I stood at the entrance to Darke Alley, thinking that the buildings were arranged in such a way as to look like teeth. I stood before the jowls of a ravenous beast ready to swallow me whole.
But I did not let that dissuade me. I had weeks of voices, visions and delusions behind me to guide me onwards and although I did not feel brave or any kind of hero, I stepped forward into the darkness.
The darkness of Darke Alley.
Everything seemed blue, cast in a hazy and unreal light. The moon was a sliver above my head, casting a pale amber radiance that did nothing but heighten the shadows and make everything seem angular and strange. I had walked the street many times over the past months, but tonight it seemed unfamiliar and unwelcoming.
A large cat slipped out of the shadows and crossed my path. Startled, I fell backwards, my hand on my chest. Seemingly oblivious, the cat wandered away from me and leapt onto a crate. It sat there, staring down the alley as if waiting for something. Then it turned its attention to me, its saucer-like eyes large and round and glimmering with blood red fire.
I let out a scream and stumbled; scrabbling on the cobbles in unthinking terror. The cat remained where it was, just sitting there, its baleful eyes revealing more than just a flicker of intelligence.
Slowly I rose to my feet, ever retreating from the mysterious cat that now looked behind me into the gloom of Darke Alley. My breath frosted before me; it had grown cold, very cold in the darkness of the night.
I turned around and gave a second frightened scream.
I remember this cry sounding unreasonably girlish as I yelped with fright. Standing not a pace behind me was a tall man, with impossibly pale features and baleful yellow eyes. His fingers were clawed into talons and he wore an embroidered robe of glistening crimson. As I fell backwards he reached out with one pale hand and grasped my sleeve, preventing me from falling. My fingers brushed his robe, feeling the wetness as I did so.
“What are you doing, poking your nose about in the darkness, little man?” The pale faced man said curiously.
I stood before him, neither knowing whether to flee or to stand and face him. I glanced down at my fingers. They tingled with the icy chill of contact and were stained with crimson. The pale faced man’s robe was literally dripping with blood.
I fought back the urge to vomit; somehow, I don’t really understand how, the world was a blur. My nightmares had manifested. They were real and standing before me.
“You are way in over your head here, little man.” the pale faced man said, shaking his head and staring into my soul with his devilish eyes. “Tut tut tut. Walking the streets at night is a dangerous business. Walking this street, well, that can be fatal.”
I noticed how impossibly smooth and clear his skin was, devoid of marks or blemishes. It was like wax, smooth and eerily white. Noticing me staring, the pale faced man grinned, lips upturning in a wicked sneer.
“So you know what I am.” He said, rubbing his hands on his robe and licking his fingers.
I took a single step backwards. “Yes. Yes I do.” I said quietly. “You’re a vampire.”
The pale man seemed impressed. “Well done,” he congratulated, “But I’m not just any vampire. That word is over used and sadly lacking when describing my people.”
I found my voice. All the answers to all of my questions stood before me and I was not going to die until I had found them…
“So what are you?”
The pale faced man hissed, “We are the Children of Vangual, the Servants of the Void, the disciples of the First and the ultimate damnation of the mortal realms.” He grinned, “Now, how’s that for a title?”
I nodded vaguely. “So you’re going to kill me then?”
The pale faced man nodded. “And feast upon your blood.” he added.
“Why are you here?” I asked; my one last question before he killed me. He stepped a pace away and gazed up at the moon.
“To bring about the end of your realm and the beginning of ours. Eternal Darkness, pain, suffering. Subjugation of the mortal realms. It’s all there, in the Avystyx Prophecies. You really should pay more attention to your history.”
At that he stopped and his eyes glimmered with vengeful amber light. “Now little man, you are out of questions and I am hungry.” The cold seemed to radiate out from him in chilling waves. It numbed my flesh and set my head reeling. I remember falling to the cobbles and feeling the agonising chill as the pale faced man took my head in his hands and sank his teeth into my neck. Tears rolled down my cheeks and my body writhed in agony, but I was powerless to move; a force greater than my own will compelled me to lie still while the pale faced man drank deep of my life-force.
But as my mind clouded and everything slipped into the depths of midnight, the pressure lifted and I fell limp to the ground. I heard the pale faced man hiss and the presence of another voice in the shadows of Darke Alley.
“You shall not have him, he is ours.” The second voice sounded strange, inhuman yet distinctly masculine; the words gravelly as though they were spoken through the long ages of death.
“This is our domain. The pale faced man hissed, “You are trespassing here.”
“No longer.” the other said. “Bringing the Void to this realm gives us authority to act as we see fit.”
I was on the very precipice of death, but even I could not miss what followed. I managed to lift my head enough to see the pale faced man standing, his robes dripping with steaming gore. Behind him was a figure that stood a head shorter, with a robe of polished leather the color of sapphires, riveted with copper studs and covered with mystical sigils that gleamed in the darkness. His face was hooded, yet his eyes glimmered with azure light, a soft radiance that somehow cast a primal terror into my soul, yet offered me comfort.
Somehow, I knew I had been saved.
The pale faced man moved to stand beside me, his clawed hands reached down towards my throat.
“The Arcane have no power here.” He hissed. “You should flee while you have the chance.”
The hooded figure nodded in my direction, “He is ours.” He said in his gravelly tones. “You shall not have him.”
The pale faced man hissed, “I would so like to see you stop me, Lich.” With that he took my head in his hands and tried to snap my neck.
Only he could not. The blue garbed figure stepped forward and uttered a single incomprehensible word. The pale faced man froze in place, his body locked as if paralysed. His eyes blazed vengefully with an anger forged from the depths of pain and hate.
“Release him, or be destroyed.” the hooded figure said coldly. The pale faced man relinquished his grasp on my throat and stepped away. My head struck the cobbles and stars danced before my eyes. I think I retched. When I again looked into the shadows of Darke Alley, the two figures were circling each other.
But I could sense the amusement from the Vampire. The pale faced man waited until the other had his back to me, then he grinned, his eyes flashed with hellfire.
From behind me, the large cat leapt from the crate. As it moved, it transformed from household tabby into a massive brute that stood perhaps eight feet tall and almost as wide. It dwarfed the blue garbed figure as it hurtled forwards, sweeping him up and smashing him into the alley wall with a thunderous sound. Then the massive figure was pummelling the motionless form of the blue garbed man with its enormous fists. I heard the cracking of bones and the victorious roar of the beast as the light in its enemy’s eyes faded.
Suddenly it stepped backward and the two vampires watched as the shattered form of the blue robed figure vanished into a haze of sparkling energy. The pale faced man and his brutish companion turned their attention back to me. Their eyes were hungry.
“Well done.” a gravelly voice said. I swung around painfully to see the blue garbed man standing unharmed beside me.
The two vampires were wracked with confusion. I could hear their curses behind me.
“You merely destroyed my avatar.” the blue garbed figure stated coldly. “You have no idea how annoyed that makes me. For that I will make you both pay, personally.”
“These realms are ours now.” The pale faced man replied, his eyes blazing with hatred. The blue garbed figure stepped around me. He wore polished boots of soft blue leather and smelled of nothing but leather and ancient time.
“You changed all that when you decided you were no longer content to lurk in the belly of the earth.” he replied, his echoing voice dripping with contempt. “You do not belong here. Your presence violates every natural law.”
The pale faced man snorted derisively. “You are preaching to me about what’s natural?” He laughed and in a blur, spat a bolt of black blood at the blue garbed man. The blood exploded around him, sizzling as though it had struck a hot plate. A moment later, the blue robed man stood unharmed, black steam rising around him. He laughed a harsh grating sound,
“Is that it?” he chuckled. “The full worth of your might? Go back to the darkness where you belong.”
The pale faced man gestured to the other to attack. “Destroy him.” He cried. Although he was angry, he seemed genuinely concerned at the appearance of this mysterious blue garbed stranger.
The huge brute rocketed forwards, but the leather clad figure seemed unimpressed.
“Vangaard be still.” He commanded, his voice echoing down Darke Alley. He raised his gloved hand and the beast came obediently to a halt not more than five paces from me. Its mass of shaggy black hair fell down about its face and its massive body relaxed. Although its dark eyes raged, its body went completely limp and it flopped to the ground, one massive arm dropping right beside my face.
“How are you doing this?” the pale faced man barked.
“Elementary magic, my dear Black Blood,” the other hissed. He grinned and gazed at me with his soft blue eyes, “You really should pay more attention to your history.”
I think he winked at me, but in my haze of consciousness I could easily have imagined it. The pain and the sickness and the fear were too much to bear. And the chill that radiated from the great brute beside me sent my senses staggering. I wasn’t sure if it was day or night, only that my life was in mortal danger; and that a terrible battle between opponents of incredible power was about to begin.
I looked back at the pale faced man, who stared at the fallen body of his protector. He seemed torn between fear and anger. He stared back at the blue garbed man who stood before me, then turned and faded into shadow.
But the mysterious stranger spoke again. “I think not.” he said, his eyes narrowing.
A rift opened up in the alley and from it the pale face man was forcibly ejected. He fell into the street landing not five paces from where I lay. He was instantly on his feet, confusion mixed with terror in his eyes.
“No leaving until I say it is time to do so,” the blue robed man said in his deathly tones. “And I do not believe I gave you permission to go anywhere.”
And before the battle had even begun, it was over. The pale faced man attacked the other, stepping over me and lashing out with razor sharp claws, but even as he raised his arm, the blue garbed man touched him lightly upon the chest and he exploded into silvery dust. Fine powder rained down upon me.
I climbed to my knees and looked at the dust that fell like snow around me. A moment ago it had been a terrifying vampire. Now it was nothing, just a foul smelling grey-black powder.
But as I turned to the blue garbed man, the great beast seemed to free itself from its bondage. In a blur it attacked the blue robed man. It slammed into him with one enormous fist and I heard the crack of bone, yet even as the robed figure fell backwards, everything seemed to slow. Whether it was my imagination, the lack of blood or the fear I cannot say, but as the world came to a crawl, I saw energy crackle between the blue robed man and the beast. The light in its eyes faded and the creature turned to dust, even as the blue garbed man collapsed on to the ground.
Then everything returned to normal.
For a long while I lay still, my head reeling; then I found the strength to stumble to my feet. Feeling light headed, I stepped towards the motionless form of the blue garbed figure.
His hood had fallen away and after what I had seen that evening I was only mildly surprised to find that in place of a face the stranger had nothing more than a skull. His features were nothing but bone, and where his eyes should have been were twin glimmering points of sapphire lambency.
“Thank you.” I said. “Thank you for saving me.”
For a moment the blue garbed man turned his head and studied me curiously. Then he rose swiftly to his feet and brushed the dust from his robe.
“Oh I am not here to save you.” he said, and I noticed that his skeletal jaw did not move. How could it? How could he have spoken? He had no lips, no tongue with which to form words. His voice seemed to manifest directly in my mind. I looked at him in wonder, and was strangely without fear. I knew, somehow that he did not intend to harm me.
“I did not do any of this to save you.” He continued, “I am here to recruit you.” He waved a hand and a glowing portal of midnight opened above the cobbles of Darke Alley.
“If you would kindly step through the portal,” he said, gesturing towards it, “You’ll find the answers to all of your questions on the other side.”
I stood on the brink; unsure of anything; unsure of life, or death, or vampires, or talking skeletons.
“Where does this portal lead?” I asked somewhat unsurely.
“The north side of town actually,” he said his eyes dancing wickedly, “We have a small town house and chapter there.”
“Chapter?” I asked.
“All of your questions will be answered very soon.” The figure sighed impatiently. For a man with no flesh on his face, his voice carried a wealth of expressions.
I stood uncertain, the portal flickering silently beside me. But the blue robed man made any decision I would have to make much easier.
“You can remain here and see your precious world engulfed in shadow or you can pass beyond the portal where you will be given the chance to aid your realm and become something far greater than you are. Considering the facts, I think the choice should be a simple one.”
When I didn’t move, he laid a gloved hand upon my shoulder and spoke again,
“Do you think these two vampires were all that lurked in this city? Hardly. They are merely part of one small brood, one of many such broods hiding here in the streets. They are the advance force for a power more terrible than you can possibly imagine.”
He paused and his eyes simmered to twin points of glimmering azure.
“Soon the mortal realms will be overrun. The Children of Vangual, or vampires as you know them are a plague, a terrible blight upon the mortal realms. Do you really wish to remain here and see everything you know destroyed by so terrible an evil?”
What choice did I have? None. I steeled myself, feeling weak and nauseous after the pale faced man had drunk so deep of my lifeblood, but I knew my actions were right. Somehow fate had conspired against me and my desires of a normal life were forever shattered.
I took a deep breath and stepped through the portal.
I did not know it then but I would soon return to Darke Alley, but it would not be as a member of the mortal realms.
It would be as part of something – greater…
– DARKNESS RISES –
THE LORDS OF THE NIGHT: VAMPIRES
This 128 page sourcebook offers:
· Book 1 of the Darkness Rising series, a series of books involving an epic campaign, heavy on role playing and background.
· A fully playable new type of vampire; be good or evil.
· Over 100 themed spells, powers and dark gifts.
· A new and terrible enemy.
· A complete setting that can be easily inserted into your campaign.
· Scalable. Play with the entire book or just insert a few monster vampires into your campaign. These vampires are nothing like you’ve seen before.
· 128 pages of flavour text, stories, abilities and powers designed to make your vampiric experiences the most stunning imaginable.
- For more information, please visit Bottled Imp Games’s official web site at www.bottledimpgames.com.