For as long as I have been a hunter, I have heard a wealth of myths about the creatures all hunters swore an oath to defend humanity against. Many of them – like the idea that sunlight is fatal, or the old wives’ tale that would have you believe vampires suffer from an obsessive compulsion with counting spilled grains – are plainly untrue, and patently absurd. Spreading those ridiculous myths is not the purpose of this condensed body of knowledge. I am interested only in the facts about what they are and what their actual strengths and weaknesses are.
As such, I have deemed collecting this modest amount of extremely detailed knowledge necessary. I have also deigned to include brief histories and rank breakdowns of some of the most prominent vampire hunting organisations, as well as a list of The Twelve and some members of their lineages. Additionally included is a good-sized, if incomplete, list of revenants that can be left to their own devices, or even sought out for aid. Without further preamble, what follows is a professional discourse on the two types and natures of vampires in existence.
Type I: Revenant
Of the two types of vampire, revenants are by far the most commonly encountered, outnumbering their creators by several orders of magnitude. Created by an infectious curse transmitted through a bite, a revenant consists of a human soul anchored to their deceased body by the curse that reanimated them after they have died, a phenomenon from which their Old French name – which means “those who return” – is derived. Their soul and consciousness retain full ownership of their body, leaving their baseline personality intact. Thus, they can feel empathy and usually know how to judge the morality of their actions, unless they suffered from a mental disturbance that made them too unstable to understand their actions’ weight or immorality when they were alive.
Unfortunately, they are still compelled to hunt and prey upon living humans by a thirst that can never be fully satisfied. This compulsion to feed turns them into greedy predators, which brings them into conflict with vampire hunters all the same. Whether they like it or not, revenants are still undead monsters that will set their sights on and kill their chosen prey, which means we still have to stop them when they become too great a threat to human lives.
Revenants are capable of crossing a threshold, with or without an invitation. They can cross running water under their own power, do not rest in coffins, and can shapeshift into one animal, if they are old and experienced enough. They are nocturnal by nature. Sunlight won’t harm them, but they do become lethargic from dawn to dusk, which makes them relatively easy to track, and easy to dispose of if caught off guard whilst resting.
They can be hard to find and identify. With the exception of nests that settle in abandoned sites and buildings near dense human populations, revenants are generally solitary nomads and outliers who just want to be left alone in between taking victims from among groups of unfortunate passers-by. Older ones take on a sickly pallor and a starved, lanky thinness, but that can easily be explained away as the result of ill health. They cast a reflection and a shadow, and will appear in pictures and film. Even their eyes, which turn permanently red after their first blood meal, wouldn’t betray a revenant if they are smart enough to conceal or explain them somehow.
Hunters are advised to approach revenants with caution. As human as they are on the inside, they still possess the strength of twenty strong men, with speed and agility to match, and a ferociously defensive streak.
Type II: Nosferatu
As there are only twelve of them remaining, you will, if fortune is in your favour, never encounter a Nosferatu during the course of your career as a hunter. Also known as Vampire Kings, or, more simply, The Twelve, they are the remnants of ancient sorcerers that studied under the Devil himself, at the Scholomance. Although similar to revenants in terms of physiology, and, indeed, being the very monsters that created them in the first place, a Nosferatu consists of a demonic spirit pulling the reigns of a host body – hence their common name, which means “unclean spirit”. They do retain a human soul, but the soul is held captive and rendered powerless by the dominating will of the vampire spirit.
Trying to reason with them is, ultimately, pointless. Any charm or politeness they show is only an act designed to lure you into a false sense of security that they can then take advantage of in whatever way they desire, usually for the fulfillment of some task they cannot complete on their own. They are incapable of exercising any moral judgements they make, and so believe themselves above the human concept of good and evil, and they do not feel empathy. Only convenience and necessity would prevent them from murdering you or leaving you to their thralls.
They have the power to spread plagues and wither crops, and they can also control the weather. Free revenants they encounter are often compelled to serve them out of fear, and the ones they create directly, known as thralls, fall under their control through the use of necromancy. Thralls are somewhat autonomous, in that they can think and plan on their own to a limited degree, but they will never really have free will until and unless their master is disposed of, at which point they become ordinary revenants indebted to their liberators and their descendants up to three generations removed. Living victims of predation by a Nosferatu will have the curse lifted entirely, and won’t rise as revenants after death.
The full range of powers possessed by any one Nosferatu is unknowable, although it is always safe to assume they can shapeshift into any feral beast or lower animal they like. All of the known ones have or had the power to become a vaporous mist and can turn into elemental dust under the light of the moon, a specific trait passed down to their thralls. They can control wild animals to a limited extent, most notably rats and wolves. They are generally capable of putting humans under a hypnotic spell, although there are always humans who, due to either mental disturbance or the promise of payment for their help, serve willingly out of perverse loyalty. From dawn to dusk, they lose their mystical powers entirely, and, as with revenants, become lethargic. Only once during daylight hours may they shapeshift; at noon precisely, and not a minute sooner or later.
One key difference can be used to easily distinguish them from revenants at a glance. A Nosferatu will not cast a reflection or a shadow. Whether or not they will show in pictures or film is unknown, however, as nobody has ever gotten close enough to one of them to capture them on camera without dying. It should be noted also that they are capable of changing their appearance to look as lively and comely as they wish.
All vampires have a set of weaknesses in common. Garlic is an effective and easily-obtained repellent. Holy water and communion wafers can both be used to inflict burns, and communion wafers can be used as a superior form of protection, e.g. by forming a barrier by placing them in a circle around you. Immolation and driving a stake made of white oak or ash through the heart are both fatal; stakes made of other types of wood will immobilise revenants, but not destroy them, and they would have no effect on a Nosferatu. Both can be slain by decapitation; in the case of revenants in particular, it is the preferred method, being a quicker and more humane alternative to fire and staking.
Symbols and charms that provide proof of faith in whatever religion the bearer follows will also work for repelling revenants, but, of course, crosses of any kind carried by devout Christians will work best. For dealing with Nosferatu, nothing short of a crucifix will be sufficient.
Unlike revenants, Nosferatu cannot cross a body of water under their own power, need to rest in a coffin during the day – or a box filled with soil from their homeland, if they are abroad – and need an invitation to cross a threshold for the first time. Blades made of cold iron can be used to dispose of them by decapitation or piercing the heart, making them an acceptable alternative to wooden stakes. The only other means of destroying them are by immersing them in running water, or, if they are caught resting, shooting them in the heart with a sanctified bullet.
Note from Joan: Attempting to replicate the previously unheard-of success of my ancestor and his compatriots Quincey Morris, Abraham Van Helsing, Arthur Holmwood, and John Seward is ill-advised. The fact of the matter is, they were a single fellowship dedicated to the destruction of one Vampire King, and they only won because they got lucky. They didn’t even know about the other ones that are still out there.