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There are over one hundred distinct kinds of vampire in Tamriel. The Iliac Bay region alone has nine variations with unique powers and abilities. I have this information not only because I have been researching this blight of the world for the last ten years of my life, but because for the seven years before that, I was one of the creatures.
Vampirism is a disease, like Brain rot or Cholera, but far, far more insidious. One can become a vampire through certain magical items or by the curse of a powerful wizard, but the most common cause is the bite or scratch of a vampire. There are no symptoms of vampirism except this -- if the victim sleeps after the attack but before he becomes a vampire, his sleep will be plagued with nightmares.
During this two to four day period, when the disease has been spread but the victim is still mortal, most any temple healer can remove the curse of vampirism. There will be no further warning.
I do not remember dying. I had been a scout for an order of knights which shall go nameless for this. A daughter of a local nobleman had been kidnapped by a mysterious character, and my captain had located his hideout. Deep in the dank underground chambers, I searched until I found the girl. Or what remained of her, a corpse the color of snow, drained of every drop of blood. I knew what the mystery man was right then, but he found me before I found the exit out. He took a good sized hunk out of my fighting arm before I managed to outrun him. I figured I was lucky to be alive. Some luck.
My trip back to the knightly order was a five day journey. I decided to get some rest early to get my arm in better shape in case I found any more trouble. I can't remember the dreams I had that night -- only that I was doing something horrible and I couldn't stop myself. I woke up screaming. The next night, at an inn a little closer to my destination, my sleep was deep and dreamless. On the third night, I died.
Of course, I didn't know that I died. I had gone to sleep in a nice warm feathered bed and I woke on a cold wet stone mortuary slab. Dazed, I opened the door to the masoleum I was in, which I think must have been locked. I was in a cemetery not far from a town I knew, so I wandered in. It was late at night, so there were precious few souls in the streets. I paused to read a public notice and noticed the date. The date was two weeks later than I thought it must have been.
As I puzzled over that, I saw a girl, a wench at my favorite tavern in that town, wandering toward me. I hailed her. She ignored me. I called her by her name, and she turned to me, smiling, but with an expression that told me she did not know who I was. I had visited her tavern on my way over to the mystery man's hideout, but she didn't know me!
I told her my name. She angrily told me that it was a very poor joke, that I looked nothing like the brave knight who used to visit the town, and that if I didn't know he was dead. My emotions were a tangled skein. I could tell she was not joking, that I looked nothing like myself. I was touched by her sorrow at my death, and horrified by the idea dawning on me of what I had become. Suddenly, an overriding instinct overcame all my thoughts -- hunger. Without even thinking about what I was doing, I reached out and tore her throat open. I drained her until she looked like the corpse in the mystery man's dungeon.
The rest of my story is told in Chapter Two.
I told in the first chapter of my story how I became a vampire and of my first kill. While it might (and, indeed, should) horrify the reader that my first victim was a friend of the mortal I used to be, it is my understanding that they are not uncommon first kills.
I left the snow white corpse in the alley and ran to the only place I felt perversely safe, the masoleum (sic). For the first couple days of my undeath, I starved myself while I considered my fate. I relearned what I was capable of doing, and found that I was stronger, faster, tougher, and more agile than before. I had powers that as a knight I had only seen powerful mages wield. Later, I discovered additional abilities, such as a total immunity to disease. Helpful when descending on a plague-stricken city like a jackal.
I also found my weaknesses. I could no longer stand the light of the sun -- exposure to it for longer than a few seconds burned me terribly. It also pained me to enter temples and other places of worship. The worst effect, of course, had to be my blood lust. If I did not kill a warm blooded creature once a night and drink its blood, my hunger would gnaw at me, and any wounds I suffered would not heal no matter how much I rested.
Is this the moment for me to admit that there was a time I loved being a bloodsucking creature of the night? It is not impossible to live only at night, merely occasionally inconvenient. And I wouldn't have to kill humans every night, merely warm-blooded creatures. Orcs have a delicious, rich brothy blood; rats are a little sweet for the only meal of the night; Werewolves are a real treat, almost decadent the tincture between human and beast. A real gourmet's delight.
About a month after I died, I was having the best time of my life. One night, I received a letter from someone who said he was "family." Curious, I went to visit him at his tavern, and was told about the tribe of vampires to which I belonged -- the Montalion. In return for me performing certain duties for the "family," the man at the inn would train me in my vampiric abilities and skills.
Though I never got very much detail, I surmised that the two main differences between the different vampire clans is geography and powers. Montalion alone have the gift for teleportation, but the other eight have powers of their own.
My mentor (that is the title he used) would congratulate me after each mission I performed, and came to trust me more and more. If asked, he would tell me about the Montalion's newest alliances, who they were manipulating, who they were stalking. It was then I started to become frightened at last. They, and all of their rival clans, were draining the blood of Tamriel itself.
I panicked. I had to find a cure. But nowhere could I find any book or rumor suggesting that vampirism is anything but permanent. So I resolved to kill myself, but I wanted to bring the Montalion down with me. I joined guilds they opposed, and failed any mission given to me spectacularly. I thought my mentor would turn against me, but he only became quieter, less forthcoming with information, never violent. He was not concerned. He had probably seen vampires like me before.
Here's why he never attacked me: immortals can afford to be eternally patient.
At last, he refused to give me any further missions. He wouldn't even talk with me, but he never left his tavern. I could come and go, and he'd watch but never talk. That's when I got another letter.
There are several of us, you see, former vampires who know what to look for. We're patient too: we learned it in our unlife. We watch and listen, and anonymously contact the vampires we know wish to end the curse.
Ending the curse is possible, but only just. It is very dangerous, but when you are cursed, the only real danger is no escape.