@Copyright E. Charles Tucker, written on behalf of Living Mask Productions all rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission of the author.

THE FIRSTBORN: BOOK OF THE V'LALEK

The races of the V'lalek Alliance are, to the Human-aligned races, the stuff of nightmares and campfire tales: the savage Ogier, the sadistic Trollics. None, however, elicit such raw terror in the hearts of the Ilusian populace as mention of the beings called vampyr - the V'lalek.

With their very existance shrouded in mystery, knowledge of the V'lalek race is tainted by folklore, fear, and misunderstanding. Few have had the will - or desire - to study the Firstborn of the Eternals with a fine eye; fewer still have survived such attempts, as the V'lalek themselves are extremely secretive about their true nature. Many of the tales involving vampiric powers were, in truth, begun by the V'lalek themselves!

Who, then, are these immortal creatures of the night? What is the truth behind the race called the V'lalek?

PHYSIOLOGY

At first glance, your average V'lalek differs little from their cousins, the Humans; from afar, a vampyr can easily be mistaken for a Human or Elvari. Heights vary little among the V'lalek, even between the sexes. Both male and female stand usually between 5'-9" in height to 6'-3", a mere handspan of difference from smallest to tallest. Weights maintain the same consistency, although there is more of a variance between male and female. Women average between 120-160lbs, while the male of the race weighs in a bit heavier at a range of 150-200lbs. There are, oddly, no overweight or emasciated members of the race; each V'lalek is proportionately muscled and toned, with little to no body fat nor overly developed musculature.

Keeping with the theme of consistency, the V'lalek as a people all hold very similar, if not identical, coloring. The hair is always black with eye coloring of varying shades of grey; however, the coloring of both the eyes and hair have been known to change after a recent "feeding" (discussed later in the text). Each has been seen to take on a darker shade, becoming more vibrant in coloring; the eyes especially are noticeable, as they become more glassy, reflective in nature.

Skin tone is also affected by this transformation. Your typical V'lalek will have a pale-grey coloring, an ash-white skin tone that reflects their racial intolerance of direct sunlight. When filled with renewed vigor, however, the vampiric skin coloring takes on a more rosy, Human appearance.

As a race, the Vílalek are stronger and faster than a typical human. This advantage is offset during the daylight hours, when Andarís rays cause a physical weakness to the vampyr. They have a strong natural affinity for magick, perhaps based on their original closeness to their Creators.

An important fact to note is the sterility of the entire race. They cannot reproduce naturally; the male are sterile, the female barren. It is only recently that Vílalek alchemists and researchers have devised a way to continue their race Ė a process that will be addressed later.

Every V'lalek, both Elder and Newborn (explained later), is an immortal creature. This is not to say they cannot die, as evidenced by the events of the Racial Wars; they are not invincible, either physically or mentally. Their bodies do not, however, decay and age; they are immune to disease and rot, their bodies lasting as long as their lifeforce remains alive within. A cut vampyr will appear to bleed, a thick red liquid pouring from the wound; a closer inspection shows the fluid as something similar, yet unidentifiable.

HISTORY

It is important, when attempting to understand the mythos of the V'lalek people, to delve into the history behind the race itself. This history, when looked at from the view of the vampyr themselves, can possibly explain their barely suppressed rage and hatred of the other races and the Eternals who created them all.
The Vílalek emerged into a world shaped by the Eternals, yet touched only by themselves. Minions of the Ancients - strong, intelligent, immortal and adaptable to extreme environments, they stood with the Ancients and served as the cup from which all life on Illusia was poured.

As many races appeared the Vílalek noted that, unlike themselves, these beings preyed upon one another for sustenance; soon (by immortal standards) whole races became extinct, victims of those who were created faster, stronger, or more intelligent. These few who survived, the Chosen races, were thought blessed by the Eternals above all save the V'lalek themselves.

Many of the V'lalek felt that the Ancients had erred in believing that the energy of the great sun Andar and the life-force channeled through the V'lalek to the lesser races would be enough to nourish these creatures. Those who had survived were more brutal, more forceful and aggressive than those they preyed upon; the period of relative peace could not last.

As is the nature of such creatures, the Chosen began to struggle amongst themselves. During what would become known as the First War of the Races, the Vílalek alone remained apart - refusing to raise up arms against another race. When that war ended, Vílalek mentors were called upon to help the people repair their homelands and learn to live a life of peaceful coexistence.

When the Eternals disappeared, all the people of Illusia were left in stunned disbelief and bewilderment - none more so than the Firstborn. They turned to each other in grief and anger, seeking understanding; why had their creators and mentors abandoned them? The V'lalek had toiled long in their mission to serve the Ancients and all their creations. Dedicated to the well being of all the races, they were shocked to find that the Ancients had taken the life force of the V'lalek and bestowed it upon their new creations.

The Vílalek suffered a fate worse than death. They were weakened and damaged, suffering in agony but not destroyed. For the first time they began to hunger, not for physical sustenance but for the life-sustaining energy which the Ancients had taken from them. That hunger drove them to strive for domination of the Illusian races; the cult of the Destroyer God, Kosduul, began from this chaos.

Vílalek lore suggests that the Ancients, recognizing their mistakes in the creation of the races, had taken the lifeforce from the V'lalek and given it instead to the lesser races. They disappeared from Illusia in guilt and fear that the Vílalek would exact revenge for the wrong done them.

The Vílalek have dedicated themselves to the destruction of the so-called Eternals, vowing to pass judgement and sentence upon their ancient Creators for their sins against the V'lalek people.
(- as written by the V'lalek scholar and historian, Alexandra Kyle)

How much of this tale is truth? Scholars of other races have argued that the Vílalek themselves have immersed themselves in so much misdirection and so many half-truths, they are unable to distinguish between the facts and fiction of their existence.

None question the idea that the Vílalek are indeed the first created among the races. Gnomish and Elvarian text go to great lengths detailing the ďradiant beauty and gentle, nurturing personaĒ of the ancient Vílalek. What, then, caused these benevolent creatures to become the hate-filled nightmares of the Illusian world?

FROM LIGHT TO DARKNESS

The following is an excerpt from a recovered scientific journal, written by an unidentified Gnomish alchemist:

Various sources agree that, as servants of the Eternals, the ancient Vílalek somehow acted as conduits of power Ė channeling, perhaps even radiating a beneficial energy that helped to nourish and sustain the early races of Illusia. At some point (which is yet unclear in ancient writings), the Vílalek would perform a rite referred to in most texts as the Kiss of Life.

My own studies of vampyric anatomy Ė specifically the infamous ďfangsĒ Ė show the teeth to contain a natural hollow tube within the cavity emptying into a near-invisible opening at the pointed tip. My belief is that the ancient Vílalek would gently pierce the skin of the recipient of this ritual Kiss with their fangs, ďbreathingĒ their internal lifeforce directly into the subject through the hollow tooth.

If the tale is true that the Eternals later removed this life energy from the vampyr and imbued the other races with it, a great many speculations can be concluded about the chain of events following the Exodus of the Eternals from this world.

The energy within the Vílalek sustained them physically; they had no need to imbibe food nor drink, and thus never hungered. The loss of this energy triggered a new, confusing sensation within them Ė a need to feed, to sustain their physical bodies. While information becomes even scarcer at this timeframe, it appears their initial reaction was not one of shock and anger as pre-supposed Ė but of amusement and curiosity.

To the ancient Vílalek this hunger was a new experience, one to be celebrated. For the first time they understood the cravings of the other races for food, and became instant purveyors of every type of delicacy imaginable. Centauri roasted boar, Gnomish mushroom pies, even Trollic swill was eaten in an attempt to discover what foods the Vílalek would find to their liking.

As we now know, none of these would suffice; the Vílalek began to starve. In vain they turned to alchemical pursuits, searching for a secret formula that would replace the energy taken from them by their creators. They became desperate as, one by one, the immortal Vílalek began to take ill for the very first time. In their malnourished state they began to lose their sanity, succumbing to a madness born of starvation and a hunger that would not be satiated. Some ragedÖand in savage hunger a Vílalek tore apart a traveling Elvar with tooth and nail Ė and discovered his hunger abated for the first time in months.

The rest is history; as word spread from Vílalek to Vílalek, the Ravaging began. No race was safe as the vampyr preyed upon the other races for sustenance. Later they would discover that it was not the meat of the races, nor in fact the blood itself that nourished the Vílalek hunger Ė but the ďstolenĒ lifeforce that lie within the blood. The act is seemingly a corrupted version of the Kiss of Life Ė only, rather than imbuing the victim with life-energy the vampyr instead draws out the lifeforce into himself, leaving behind a dried, desiccated husk of a corpse.

The Gnomish journal does not address the other aspects of the transformation from Vílalek to vampyric creature: the avoidance of Andarís rays and the pale complexion. No text has been found to explain this phenomena; popular speculation is that the loss of the life-giving energy stole the ability of the Vílalek to absorb the warmth of Andar as well, weakening the Vílalek race in daylight and giving their skin an unhealthy, colorless pallor.

MYTHS OF THE VAMPYR

ďBut first, on Illusia as Vampire sent
Thy corpse shall from its tomb be rent;
Then ghastly haunt they native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed they livid living corpse.Ē
- Byron, Human bard

Even among their allies, the Vílalek are mistrusted and despised as a whole. Few save the Felzur and the Vílalek themselves still refer to them by their ancient name; instead they are spoken of with derision and fear, given a name based on archaic terms for a now-extinct blood-sucking leech: wamphir, vampyr, or vampire.

Many half-truths, lies and misconceptions have risen regarding the vampyric race, many of which are believed by the general public as fact:

Vampires are undead creatures, risen from their graves to terrorize the living.
In fact, the Vílalek are very much alive; they are not the dead come to life.
You become a vampire when bitten by one.
No one can ďbecomeĒ a vampire; they are a separate race, albeit corrupted from their original state. The bite from a vampire is just that Ė a bite, which may need to be washed lest infection set in.
A stake through the heart, beheading, and burning by fire are the best ways to kill a vampire.
Absolutely true. These also happen to be excellent ways to kill a Gnome, a Troll, a dog, or any other living, breathing creature. Vílalek are no exception.
Andarís rays cause severe burns, and is fatal to a vampire.
It is true that the vampyr avoid Andarís light; it apparently causes some mild discomfort, and seems to have an adverse effect on their physiology by physically weakening them. There is, however, no evidence to support the idea that the light causes direct harm to their bodies.
Vampires can turn to mist, or transform into animals at will.
It should be noted that, as a race, the Vílalek are very competent mages who are well-versed in illusionary skills. A mage from any race with sufficient knowledge can achieve the same illusion.
Items blessed by a priest opposed to Kosduulís teachings will harm a vampire.
Unless that blessed item is used as a weapon, merely holding the item before a Vílalek will cause little more than an amused tic on the vampyrís face.
Vampires have no reflection, cannot cross water, and cannot enter a home without permission.
All complete untruths.
Vampires drink the blood from their victims.
A misconception. The Vílalek do bite into the victimís flesh; however, they do not drain the actual bodily fluids of the victim. Instead they draw out the life-energy, and if they overindulge in their feeding they leave behind a dried, emaciated shell that can easily be mistaken for a body drained of blood.

LIFE, DEATH & BEYOND

It has already been said that the Vílalek are both immortal, and yet sterile; while the race can, potentially, live forever they cannot reproduce, replacing those who have died from unnatural causes.

However, methods have been devised which, while far from foolproof, have allowed the vampyri to replenish their ranks. This is a closely guarded secret among the few mystics and alchemists aware of the process; it is, perhaps, the one thing that will save their race.

What little information that has leaked out from the vampyr city, Valdemyr, suggests a ritual involving the corpse of a deceased Vílalek. Undocumented necromantic magick is used to regenerate, reanimate and perhaps reform the lifeless husk into a new, reborn Vílalek Ė a Newborn, one of a new generation of vampyr created from the remains of the old. Speculation, some wild and unthinkable, hints at other necessities of the ritual: a mixture of blood from each Chosen race, a newborn child from the Humans or Elvari, a captured spirit from an otherworldly plane. For obvious reasons, such speculation has been strongly discouraged by the other races.

The Vílalek as a whole give tribute to the Destroyer, Kosduul the Ursurper. To use the phrase ďworshipĒ would be wrong; the vampyr worship no one but themselves. It is better, instead, to say they revere his teachings and follow his ways, using the godís motivations as a guide for their own aspirations and needs. It is a relationship of convenience Ė Kosduul receiving their tribute, while in exchange the Vílalek receive the godís patronage.

Some believe that it is Kosduul himself who was responsible for the removal of the Vílalek lifeforce, perhaps knowing that in losing that vital part of themselves they would be more easily manipulated or controlled. The Vílalek view this opinion with mixed emotions: hatred for the wrong done to them, yet respect for the far-reaching machinations of a would-be god.

SOCIETY

The Vílalek are governed by a combination of a monarchy and a democracy. The ruling king is chosen and advised by a Council of Elders, the members of which are in turn elected from each of the five great Houses of the Vílalek social hierarchy. While competition among the various Houses is fierce in an attempt to join the ranks of the Five, the same Houses have maintained a solid hold on the top positions for several centuries: Ravensbane, Charblyss, Bloodhaven, Duurgas, and Blackenmoor.

Houses represent familial/clan structures, and are patriarchal in nature. Each house is overseen by a male Lord, with that Lord responsible for the actions of those within his House. Punishment is often swift, with no patriarch wanting to lose face to his peers because of the actions of those within his charge.

Few Houses hold affection for those of other Houses, regardless of their position in the social ladder. However, very few disputes move beyond small scuffles and quiet intrigues, as each Vílalek is all-too aware of the need to survive as a race. Murder of another Vílalek is an unimaginable crime; punishment is handed out quickly once guilt is proven, with the guilty partyís living body as well as the corpse of the deceased being used in the reanimation process to create two Newborn for the offended House. With births impossible and reanimation a possibility only if a previous body can be recovered, the loss of a House member is a shattering blow to the Houseís status.

The Vílalek enjoy the fine arts Ė music, poetry, art; however, nothing excites a vampyr Lord like the thrill of the hunt. Great hunting expeditions often take place in the woods of Ravenís Peak and around Black Mountain, elaborate and fanciful events that generally begin with the freeing of several slaves into the forest, ending with the savaging of those re-captured slaves at the end of the hunt by the Vílalek nobles. It is often a bloody, unfair contest; dogs are released to literally hound the slaves, the beasts having been trained to rake at the prey without bringing it down or killing it.

PERSONA

The Vílalek, with the exception of the Newborn, have lived for centuries Ė existing since the Exodus when the Eternals left this world some 700 years past. As such they have an unparalleled knowledge of the Illusian world, the creation of the races, and presumably of the nature of the Eternals.

They consider themselves above all other races, even in their transformed state; their fall from grace is viewed as an unjust curse placed upon them by jealous, ungrateful Eternals. They feel betrayed; their years of devotion and unwavering loyalty were met with punishment, not reward. To them, the other races are fodder Ė lesser beings whose sole purpose is to serve or be used to sustain the Vílalek.

The Vílalek despise the term ďvampyrĒ and its ilk; they are a proud people unashamed of their heritage, or the things they feel they have been forced to do in order to survive as a race. They feel misunderstood, and yet they do not care what the other races think of them; the Eternals placed this curse on them, and so by right all the creations of the Eternals should suffer for it.

-fin-