The Nightborn, Generals of Oblivion
Ever since mortals first peered into the dark voids beyond the world, there have been those who have longed to serve the baleful powers that brood and hunger Outside. Whereas some were content to walk the path of the Necromancer, studying the Black and making pacts with its denizens, there are a few who go even farther, renouncing the Gods of Aerynth and giving themselves over to the Void, body and soul.
Dark rituals consign the bodies of these wicked fiends to death, while their souls are drained away to feed the hunger of the Void. The mind remains, wiped clean of any memory of its previous life, but full of cunning and hate. Unnatural strength and vigor fill their limbs, and their flesh turns pale and hard as alabaster. Thus the old flesh dies, and a Vampire, chosen general of Oblivion, is born.
Vampires are blessed with unnatural strength and dead flesh that can withstand the mightiest of blows. But their dark powers come at a great cost: they must consume their own vitality to use their dark gifts, and they are cursed with a ravenous thirst for blood. Darkness incarnate, Vampires walk upon Aerynth as the eyes and ears of the Void, working tirelessly to bring about the Final Darkness, when the Void will greedily consume all that lives.
Whatever form they held in life, when a Vampire is Born to Darkness (as they themselves refer to their transformation) their bodies are completely transformed. Wiped away are any vestiges of their old selves - the old colored or tattooed skin crumbles into dust, revealing a pale, cold flesh that is as hard as granite. Vampires still retain the semblance of gender (though useless, since their soulless dead flesh can neither sire nor bear children), appearing as hauntingly beautiful, nearly perfect physical forms. Their pale skin, red glowing eyes, and bestial, bat-like ears offer visible testimony to their dark allegiance. Vampires most closely resemble Shades, though next to a Vampire's imposing form any Shade looks clumsy and half-finished, like an ill-wrought sculpture.
For thousands of years legends have sprung up around Vampires, wild tales that have attributed all manner of powers and weaknesses to them. Some say that any who drink the cold blood of a Vampire will become a Vampire themselves, while others claim that vampire blood degenerates any who drink it into hideous, feral beasts. Vampires, some say, can be held at bay by mirrors, burned by silver, or driven mad by spilling a handful of salt upon the ground! The Vampires of legend were burned by sunlight, though since the Turning none of them seem to mind the light of day. Now that so many Vampires walk the lands of Aerynth, many of these legendary powers and vulnerabilities have finally been proven false, or seem only to apply to a few Vampires. Though still mysterious, Sages and Wizards have been able to establish some vampiric powers with certainty.
The uncanny power of the Void infuses the dead flesh of all Vampires, making them uncannily quick, brutally strong, and unnaturally resilient. It is as if death and rebirth have swept away all the limitations of their old bodies, and even their minds are quick and keen, unconstrained by a lifetime of experience or emotion. Their soul, however, is lost to them, and Vampires lack great spiritual aptitude, though their wills remain strong and cold as adamant. Though their wills still animate their bodies in a mocking semblance of life, Vampires are wholly dead beings: they do not breathe, or eat, or sleep. Vampires are also incredibly difficult to kill, their marble-hard flesh deflecting blows that would eviscerate lesser beings. It is as if Death itself, already owning their souls, refuses to claim them again. This unholy Fortitude is not without limits: indeed, Vampires are still vulnerable to lesser hurts, and are especially vulnerable to fire and holy energies.
For all their mighty powers, the Vampires also bear a dreadful curse: their undead dead flesh also has no power to heal or sustain itself, and indeed without the infusion of new essence, a Vampire's powerful body would putrefy into a heap of foulness, or wither away into dust. Their unholy natures render Vampires almost immune to the healing magics of the Gods of Law and Light, leaving the Nightborn with only one means of sustaining themselves: leeching the life essence from others by drinking fresh blood. Vampires live in a constant awareness of the Thirst, craving the blood that is all that stands between them and true death.
Ever since mortals first peered into the dark voids beyond the world, there have been those who have longed to serve the baleful powers that brood and hunger Outside. The first Vampires arose among the Moraenarth, the Thirteen Elvish heretics who first contacted the will of the Void and laid the foundations of Necromancy. Since that fateful time, there have been others who have sought out the forgotten secrets of the Thirteen and forged pacts of their own with the Hungering Dark. There are also grim legends, still whispered among the Sons of Men, that mortals with black souls who renounce the Gods and commit hideous draw the notice of the Void, whether they wish to or not. The Dark takes root in them the very moment their mortal body dies, transforming them into Vampires without any necromantic pacts or rituals. However they are created, Vampires have one goal: to call forth the Darkness to Aerynth, where it shall quench all lights and be the death of all that draws breath.
Through the last two ages of the world, there have never been more than a handful of Vampires, lurking in ruined wastelands far from civilization. With the beginning of the Dark Crusades, however, the number of Vampires that walk the lands of Aerynth has grown at a terrifying pace. Where once they were content to scheme and plot in their remote fortresses, now they walk openly among the other peoples of Aerynth, spreading terror and mayhem, drinking blood, leading Shroud Cults, and proclaiming for all to hear that the final Doom of Aerynth is at hand.
Most Vampires renounce any or all ties of kinship with their birth race. The Dark has given them great power and a new birth, and their past lives are not even faintly remembered. Vampires feel a great affinity with Shades, whom they regard as lesser versions of themselves, worthy servants of their ambitions. For their part, Shades who have embraced the darker sides of their nature venerate Vampires as near Gods, the emissaries of the Darkness beyond the Shroud. Vampires are completely at ease with undead of any kind, and often marshal great hordes of spirits and moldering corpses to unleash upon the living. The Nightborn are divided in their opinions of "the Cattle" (as they call all living things); most feel nothing but disgust for all who still breathe, and despise the fact that they must depend upon the blood of lesser beings to survive. Others find the living to be convenient tools and slaves, and enthrall them with their strong wills or the promise of dark power.
"Still your body and ease your thoughts... the transformation is
nearly complete and your memories of life are gone forever. You were
killed not long ago and your blood is still dark red upon the
ground. I had come to feed but in the short time since your death,
the Void has seen fit to fill your body with its power. Yes... the
Black grows ever stronger and your human life must have been savage
and bloody for you to have risen so quickly into Shadow. My hunger
will not be sated this hour but time is nothing to me. I will tell
you of yourself before I continue my hunt.
"In the beginning, all was in darkness when the All-Father and his
companions first set foot on Aerynth. With no days or time the world
was in twilight and the Children of the World prospered. The cycle
of death and rebirth was balanced and unimpeded; souls easily flowed
in and out of the Void. Such was the Age of Twilight until the
Dragon was roused from its slumber. It raged across the realms and
blasted Vollianth with such furious flame that the Sun was born.
"Remember that Aerynth is but a small speck in the immensity of the
Void and all these events drew no notice until the sundering of the
Cliffs of Fate and the setting into motion of the Sun, Moon, and
Stars. Thus began the Age of Days and the counting of time that
smashed the spheres of Light and Black, trapping souls of the dead
on Aerynth. The Shadow had fallen. Spirits could not escape and the
dead could not rest. Mindless and hungry corpses walked the earth,
undead manifestations of the Void's power. In the ensuing War of
Shadow, Elves and Men fought against the Undead Legions to no avail.
"It was in this time that a hidden cloister of elvish priests and
wizards was assembled to study the nature of the Black. Ghoregul,
the death-magic profession of Necromancy, was born and the Elvish
ambitions soon turned from learning the nature of their enemy to
animating and controlling death flesh. They called themselves the
Moraenarth, the Black Thorns, the Thirteen. Among them were Ghorgor
and Baelgor, the two eldest of our kind. They were so consumed by
the Void that they wanted to merge with it and spent endless years
searching for the keys to the other side.
"Meanwhile, the Men of Ardan had developed intermediate solutions.
They made Soul Stones to trap the spirits of the dead and crafted an
immense Net of Binding to restore the barrier between Light and
Black. The War of Shadow slowly came to an end as remaining
corporeal undead were hunted and destroyed. By the war's end, the
Deathless Empire declared the work of the Thirteen a forbidden
science and sought to destroy those who dabbled in it. Ghorgor and
then Baelgor had perfected their Black rituals and evaded their
destruction by being born into night, where they remained in the
shadows for centuries.
"In the wake of the War of Shadows, the Ardani learned of the
previous treachery of the elves and grew suspicious of their new
interest in death-magic. And so began a new conflict between the
Deathless Empire and the Kingdom of Ardan. Remembered as the Wars of
Spite, the clash quickly stalemated on the battlefield. So the elves
turned to magic, unleashing the Blood Curse that brought the Doom of
Ardan and the Cruel Years. The complete destruction of Men was only
averted because Ardan's sacrifice had drawn the brunt of the spell's
"Men had lost all their faculties had come under the dominion of the
Deathless Empire. They existed either as wild savages or slaves to
the Empire. Many strong slaves were selected for Elvish knife and
magic to be made into the Minotaur to build and guard their Empire,
as well as fight its Wars of Ice and Fire. One such man was Drangor,
but his will was too strong for the arcane magic and resisted its
effects. Long did the Elves try to break him, but he resisted until
he was freed by other Men who had broken from the Empire's grasp
whose reason and speech were returning.
"As tensions between Elves and Irekei grew to war, Drangor joined
the slave revolt and helped rebuild the Kingdom of Men. But Drangor
could not turn his hate away from the Elves. Under the emblem of the
Wolf, the war-chief led endless punitive raids against the periphery
of the Deathless Empire. He wrought horror and atrocity unmatched by
any of the Children of the World until he was captured.
"Drangor's fate was slow death in prolonged public torture, but his
wrath and ferocity had not gone unnoticed by the Darkness. The Void
consumed his spirit and his flesh was remade as Drangor was born
into night. He answered the call to join with Baelgor the Zealot and
Ghorgor the Fiend, who already formed clans. In the shadows, they
taught him the ways of Bloodcraft and together they prepared for the
coming of Oblivion.
"By this time the War of the Flames between Elves and Irekei had
been aborted when an Irekei Wizard, guided by whispers from the
Dragon, threw open the Chaos Gate. Led by the Dark Lords, endless
hordes of Chaos soldiers imploded from the churning madness beyond
the outer reaches of the void through the portal and into the world
to Aerynth to descend upon the Children of the World. Every Kingdom
reeled under the weight of the onslaught and a Grand Alliance was
formed to resist the advance.
"In this seething conflict, a raving Aelfborn named Straeglind
fought with such insane fury that she won the favor of a Dark Lord.
He easily convinced her to change sides and root out hidden pockets
of Elves for the hordes to slaughter. In return, she was allowed to
feast on their flesh and blood to her heart's content. But the war
was long and Straeglind did not outlive it. As with Drangor before
her, the Void devoured Straeglind's soul and filled her body with
Darkness. The three elders called to her and she joined them in the
shadows to learn of her nature and watch the War of the Scourge
"Ever has the will of the Void been active, endless in its desire to
obliterate the world. With the slaughter of the war between the
hordes of Chaos and the Alliance, the Darkness found many of the
newly slain fit to serve its designs. The number of nightborn grew
steadily and the four elders drew them into their clans. Among those
born into darkness during the war was Ithriana, the grand daughter
of Sillestor. The Silver Maid's treason and wickedness were so vast
that when the Dark Lords destroyed her stronghold and obliterated
her legions with steel and spell, all was engulfed by the Void.
Ithriana became the Lich Queen and her captains arose as her Black
"When the War of the Scourge came to an end, the All-Father built
the gates to Heaven and Hell. Again the souls of the dead could
escape from Aerynth into the Black and a balance of energies
resumed. Our furious need to feed was sated but our elders kept
watch on the world. They occasionally passed through the spaces
where the Net was weak or walked the earth where death-magic or
profound evil was at work. Still, a deep hunger gnawed at us all as
we felt the Void's malign will at work. But the Darkness held us,
waiting for the Children of the World to bring about their own
destruction. And so it was for an entire age.
"Then it came. It was at the end of a long war between two old
enemies. It was an act of unspeakable malice and cruelty. And it was
performed in the very crucible of the world. With one strike the
world was broken, the gates to Heaven and Hell slammed shut, and the
Net of Binding was torn apart. Now the Void reaches all about the
sundered fragments of Aerynth and the Isle of Oblivion has risen.
The Children of the World have been thrown into disarray and are
helpless to resist the Hungering Dark. They try in vain to fend off
the inevitable, but the advent of the shadow has come.
"And you... feel the unnatural strength fill your body and let the
Void's will flow through you. The Darkness has but two demands. The
first will come easily and your endless hunger will see it done. But
the second demand is your true purpose: you must rise as a general
of Oblivion to command the Unholy Legions. But first you must learn
your path and I have told you all I can. Seek out the elders and
take your place as the Null consumes the world."