Slashing Weapon: standard (rank 1)
Our legends, the mythos common to all vampire clans, said that a dhampyr, a halfling sired between the two races of vampire and human, able to survive in the light of day, would unite all creatures of the night and lead the vampires to victory and their proper sovereignty. Given the proper rite and the proper tools, the vampires would have their messiah.
I was four when they bestowed the rite upon me. The rite was given to every dhampyr at that age. I was not the first halfling born, not even the first to our clan. But I was the first halfling in centuries to survive the rite.
I remember nothing of the rite save for the pain, the excruciating, burning pain coursing up my arms. I, in fact, know nothing before the agony of the rite. The pain, it seems, burnt away all memories of my infancy. I have nothing but the pain, the rite, and then my mother reciting the Bestowment.
“The halfling now shall have the most sacrosanct of weapons bestowed upon her, the ancient blades of vampirekind, for the power of uniting her allies and striking down whoever would stand against her, those of both of the morn and the night,” my mother recited in the ancient, fell language the rite had been scribed in, a language I could, even at four, understand. (My mother! Queen of the Vampires, chieftain of the clan of the Empire, largest clan of vampires on the earth, but naturally the halfling was her child. She would have had it no other way.)
My mother came to where I kneeled, the grim calligraphy of dark scars wrapped around my arms and chest displayed for all those in attendance on this most sabbatical of nights, still glowing, still bleeding, the final remnants of the rite. The glow of the scars and a single torch in the center of our sanctuary were the sole sources of illumination for our eyes--the rite was on a new moon.
My mother thrust a bastard sword into my right hand and my fingers immediately clasped the haft--the sword not ancient, no, still, in fact, hot from the forge and searing my hands, but the legends said that in the properly enchanted weapons in the hands of the halfling with the rite, the sword transmuted into the weapon of legends, the blade of the messiah. A true miracle. “This sword is undeath,” my mother shouted to the hundreds in attendance as well as myself, “this is our kind, this is night, this is chill, this is darkness and this is your vampire ancestry, where your fidelity lies.” Muted cheers seeped into my range of hearing from those who thought this worth celebrating, but glares from my mother’s servants would remind them of the proper reverence.
“This is mortality,” she said, thrusting a short sword into my other hand that I held on to as quickly and as tightly as I had grabbed the first blade even as my fingers burned, not by thought, but almost by instinct. “is humankind, this is daylight and heat and radiance and all the things we must shun. This blade is your humanity, which you cannot destroy, for it is this that gives you your true power. This blade is our adversary, whom you and we shall overcome.” Muted jeers came from the crowd, but fewer had the bravery to voice their feelings now.
My mother turned and for a moment I thought the Bestowment was over, but my mother returned, her shoulders exposed in her gown, and her eyes burning with the dark fire that always laid behind them. She held in her hands a chain with thirteen full links and two halves at the ends, the tips of the hemi-links glowing red-hot, submerged in magical fire to make the tips melt metal, weld themselves. She made the smallest of gestures, and I rotated the blades in my hands without quite knowing what I was doing. My mother took the chain by the ends and pushed the molten nibs into the steel hafts of the blades. Metal hissed as the chain fused into the ends of the sword. Sparks flew and alit on my already burning arms. A drop of liquidated metal seeped onto my hand, but I dared not cry out in pain. It was just another future scar.
To avoid thinking about the burning in my hands, I considered what the next part of the Bestowment would be. I thought that my mother would say that the chain was death, the only equalizer between the vampire and the mortal. “No,” said my mother, as if sensing what I was thinking. “This is life, childe, this is your life. The only way to properly join the vampires and the living. Life is the only equalizer, childe, and it is what you are.” The chain cooled, bonded to the swords. I understood. I looked into my mother’s eyes. She yelled the ancient word for the vampire into the air, as if in victory.
“Desmovontidae!” she screamed, and then I was screaming in accompaniment, “Desmovontidae!” My mother and I scream the word, and then all my fellows join us in scream the word as if a call of victory. “Desmovontidae! Desmovontidae! Desmovontidae!”
Weapon Master: superior (rank 2)
I was the halfling, but I was still a child. A child could not start a revolution, nor lead the army that would follow if she started one, fate and legend notwithstanding. So I was raised, and nurtured, and I grew.
Years later, still young but far from the child I had been, I was training with my swords, practicing with Undeath and Mortality. And Life between them.
I looked around, watching the straw dummies around me standing silently, the targets I used. There were deep slices in a few of the dummies, and slim gouges in most. One, the largest, thickest, and most imposing of the lot, one I had always considered the leader of the soldiers of straw and cloth, had a wound in him, but one in its lower-left quadrant. Jackman, I believe, was his name.
I was dismayed. I had dealt mortal blows to a few of my mindless opponents, but I had neglected to bestow sufficient wounds upon most of my nonliving foes that would kill them, had they been of flesh and blood rather than fabric and reed. Jackman was especially a cause for concern, as the strike I had given him would have barely caused him to pause before beheading me with a greataxe, if one of his grunts had not smited me across the head with a mace or sliced me open with his own blade.
My father stood nearby, monitoring my performance. My father was shorter and a bit more rugged than my eternally elegant mother. A lock of his amber hair hovered over his forehead, and from the look on his face, he could sense my disappointment. “Sedira, I’m sure you know why it‘s not working,” he said. He was the only one who ever called me by name.
He walked over to me. I met his eyes, soft eyes, eyes very unlike my mother’s. Before I could inquire what he meant, my father continued. “How do you ever expect to fight your adversary if you insist on fighting your weapon?”
My father took my swords from my hands, the only person other than I to hold them. He yanked on the two hilts, pulling them apart from each other. The chain clinked slightly as the links attempted to free themselves from each other. “You’re fighting against the chain,” my father said, then turned and in one powerful stroke bisected the dummy directly behind him. “Fight with the chain, Sedira, fight alongside the chain. It‘s…” he looked towards the moon. “It’s your true strength.”
I did fight with the chain from then on. The rest of that session was heavenly. I moved like quicksilver by my simulated foes, dealing blow after blow that no true opponent would be able to survive. And as I reached Jackman, I pulled back on the short sword as I thrust with the other. I ran the sword to its hilt into Jackman as easily as if the mannequin had been made of cloudstuff.
I loved my father dearly.
Bio Vampire: standard (rank 1)
I ran from the largest clan of vampires on the earth a brief month after the first duty bestowed on me as the halfling, which itself was half a year after I…became a woman. I will not, can not tell those stories, neither of them. Not the story of my maturing until I stop feeling those ragged claws on my legs, and not the story of my responsibility until I stop hearing her scream, stop hearing those shrieks of raw terror.
Her name was Lily.
I woke after a restless, dream-filled sleep over an hour before dusk to prepare, not that it took much. Besides my blades, I did not have much I called mine. We vampires are spartan folk. I took Undeath, Life, and Mortality up; I assembled several waterskins of blood and a few changes of clothes. Before I escaped from the camp, another voice, common sense, perhaps, took hold. Did I truly want to try to leave my family, my clan? What was there, truly, to gain?
The scars crisscrossing my arms were racked with agony as Lily’s scream echoed in my head. I ran.
Not long into my flight I could just hear my mother’s scream of rage as she discovered my disappearance. A horrifyingly, impossibly short time after that, I heard the sound of my former clanmates pursuing me eith the tenacity of a wolfpack. They would try to stop me. They would have to; my mother surely commanded it. Could I attack my fellows, my friends, my family? Could I kill those I had so recently called comrades?
I could not think of it. I would not think of it. I continued to run, soon dashing into a forest filled with old growth with trees so dense it plunged the night into near-total darkness, even with my eyes. I could hear the my mother’s servants approaching, moving around me now. They were older, faster, better than I was. I attempted to burst into a sprint, but tripped over a root and made a clumsy dance into something soft…and cold.
I staggered back, attempting to remove my swords from their sheaths, my fingers inexplicably losing all dexterity. “Peace, Sedira, peace!” whispered a voice I recognized.
“Father!” I shouted, then shut my mouth tightly, praying I had not given away my position. “Are…”
“There’s no time,” said my father, “I…I knew you’d never be able to be the messiah. Even when you are a child.” He had a split-second expression of wistfulness and love that I could even see in the darkness. “Run straight east from here, Sedira, and do not stop until daylight.” I nodded. It was what I would have done had I retained my bearings. “I will slow the clan down as well as I can.”
All of my innards seemed to vacate me. “That is sedition!” I screamed, subtlety suddenly a nonentity. “Treason! Mother will have you killed!”
“I know, my daughter, I know, but--” He paused, growled for a half-second, then leapt over me and onto a dark form that had been behind me. The was a second of struggle, then the form stopped moving. “Go, Sedira! Run!” My father yelled, then leapt on another dark form.
I ran. I my moment of greatest cowardice, I ran. “Father!“ I screamed, acid tears running down my face, “I love you!” But I fear my the silence of the night devoured my cries. I would never see my father again.
Telepathy: standard (rank 1)
Months upon months upon months later, when I finally stopped being awakened after dusk by the sound of vampires moving into position, when blood no longer covered my blade daily, when I could get through an entire rite to Ryzanne before an interruption, I finally allowed myself to approach a town with intent to live there.
I introduced myself as a wandering orphan, which, in a way, I was. Belmar was a miller, body forged of stone and heart as soft as a butterfly wing. His wife, Eve, was the one who truly took me in, saw something in me that was worth embracing, worth loving. Their children, the boy Lowe and small girl Sinise, embraced me as a friend and perhaps even adoptive sibling…as long as I let them admire my swords once in a while. Soon, all the townspeople, even gruff Sir Syde, who made up the militia in the hamlet, knew me and smiled at me.
Eve gave me care. Lowe and Sinise gave me companionship. The whole town gave me belonging. Belmar gave me…true home.
I knew it could not last. I should have known it could not last.
Not a month after I started sleeping in the small attic in Belmar’s mill, I had a dream. My sleep has always been tormented by dreams, as far back as I remember. Dreams of my past and of my parents and of glinting fangs in the night. But this dream was more vivid than almost any I could recall. I dreamed I was awoken by pressure on my lips, a kiss on my lips. I opened my eyes to see my mother above me, separating from me, every bit as terribly, frighteningly beautiful as she’d ever been. “We are coming to get you, childe,” said my mother. My scars erupted into burning agony. I reached for my swords, but she had them, she held them out of my reach. “You cannot escape us. And--” for a brief second, her voice was filled with rage, “I would rather see your corpse than you alive but denying me!”
She looked down her nose at me. “We are coming, childe. But…first we shall teach you a lesson!” She kissed my again, the same place, then, just as she was fading into the darkness, my mother lunged at me fangs and claws bared. I closed my eyes, bracing for impact. But there was none. I opened my eyes, and I was still in bed. On my back. Alone. My scars ached, but there were no added marks. By the end of my day, it was as ephemeral as any other dream.
But, a few weeks later I had another dream. The town burned around me, smoke rendering the night sky, the moon, invisible. Evil, shifting shadows were in every corner. The mill, its waterwheel demolished, burned as well, I having only escaped at the last instant. Blood covered the ground, blood laid before houses and blood on walls and blood pooling and shifting downhill in a sanguine stream. Sir Syde’s disembodied arm lay on the ground before me, still clutching his sword in a determined grip. A figure--a female figure, my god, Eve? Sinise? A figure ran toward me, hair burning, hair ON FIRE, but one of the shadows overtook her, slammed into her, spirited her away. I screamed in fear and anguish.
Then I woke up and I realized it was not a dream.