“I say you can find out the servants of Death by their marks. No man is born so unnatural that his body does not revolt at the foul pollution of Undead blood. And by these marks you can tell them: by the fangs of the predator, for their thirst for blood is like that of a foul beast; by their porcelain white skin, cold to the touch and unnatural to the eye; the glow of their eyes, behind which lives the terrible Hunger. These are the marks of the blackest evil. These are the marks of the Vampire…”Johann van Hal, the Witch Hunter General
A Vampire of the Lahmian Bloodline
Vampires are immortal beings that have spread the loathsome curse of Undeath across the realms of Men for centuries. Though many lineages of this foul race now live in the rain-swept forests of the far north, their true origins lie within the once great civilisation of Nehekhara. The true masters of Undeath; they retain much of their original intelligence and capabilities despite their curse, and hence retain their ambition and desire. This makes them very dangerous indeed, for Vampires, due to their immortality, have an extensive period of time in which to hone their skills and refine their schemes to utter perfection.
Since the downfall of Nagash, the only remaining power-faction of Vampires still currently dwelling within the Old World is that of the Vampire Counts, which is supposedly led by Mannfred von Carstein, last of the Sylvannian royal blood-line. The Vampire, for all its power and cunning, is ultimately a base, selfish creature driven by the same motivations of the mortals they deem themselves superior to. For instance, the Brotherhood of Necrarchs strives to attain perfect knowledge of Necromancy and unsurpassed magical power, whereas the Lahmians possess luxury and decadence beyond any dream of avarice.
Vampires share no uniform physical appearance, aside from the fact that most of them have basically humanoid dimensions – most can pass as human at a distance, and hide their ungodly natures behind charm and magical glamour – but for all their refinement, they are but rotting corpses held together by Dark Magic, and only those who feed well can maintain the illusion of beauty. Some Vampires do not even care to do that, and cast aside anything that disguises their true natures, appearing as rotting cadavers that glory in their inhumanity.
The greatest curse of Queen Neferata’s legacy is that they cannot subsist on normal food and drink; in order to survive, the Vampire must feast upon the very lifeblood of mortal creatures, and it is only through this imbibing of fresh blood that they are able to preserve their power and their very unlife. For the youngest Vampires, this is a terrible affliction that consumes their every thought and drives their actions, smothering all sense of rationality and reasoning, causing them to become rash, animalistic creatures that are easily caught and destroyed by Witch Hunters and other dedicated foes of the Night. However, most older Vampires are far more subtle, and have learned to subsist on less and less fresh blood, until finally only needing to feed once every number of years. Regardless, none can totally outrun the primal instincts that now govern their evil existence. Due to their unholy nature, and the Empire’s Witch Hunters, Vampires are fewer in numbers then they were during the Time of Nagash or the first few Vampire Wars. Indeed, since the downfall of Vlad and Konrad von Carstein, the Vampire race as a whole is divided and often hides amongst the human population. Some Vampires, such as Countess Gabriella, are trying their best to prevent the start of another Vampire War, knowing full well that it would only lead to the unveiling and possible deaths of the last few Vampires in existence.
Some two and a half thousand years before the birth of Sigmar, the ancient civilisation of Men known as Nehekhara dwelt along the banks of the great River Vitae. Of all the kings of Nehekhara, none could match the splendour, cruelty and arrogance of Settra, the first Priest-King of the city-state of Khemri. Under his inspired leadership and unparalleled ruthlessness, the many priest-kings of Nehekhara’s city-states were conquered and forced to pay tribute and acknowledge Khemri as the greatest city of the land. But Settra was unsatisfied, knowing that one day death would rob him of all he had accomplished. In his arrogance he vowed that the grave would not claim him and proclaimed that he would cheat death, setting his wisest and most powerful priests towards working on a means of preventing his passing. Soon all of Nehekhara became preoccupied with death and the afterlife, building many huge temples and monuments to the dead. These huge tombs became so frequent and huge that the rulers blocked them all into the giant cities of the dead called Necropoli.
It was into this culture that Nagash was born, brother of the Priest king of Khemri. Nagash was the first son and was given to the mortuary cult as tradition demanded. He soon rose to the position of high priest. He observed the morticians as they prepared the dead for internment. He learned all of their ancient spells but, because Nehekhara was so far south of the Winds of Magic, he was too weak to cast them. Nagash took to unspeakable experiments in his quest for immortality and soon all the citizens of Khemri shunned him. But then, a group of Dark Elves was blown off-course and captured by the Zandri navy, then given to Khemri as a gift to be sealed in with Nagash’s father in his tomb. Nagash only pretended to poison them; he then proceeded to learn in secret all they knew. Nagash kept them sealed in his father’s pyramid as a bargain: he would learn their sorcery and they would get out alive. They taught him how to reap souls and use their energy to cast spells on his own. With this knowledge, he created the elixir that made him immortal as long as he continued to drink it. Nagash’s experiments met with limited success: he was able to prolong his life and forestall the effects of aging, but there was something missing, something that evaded Nagash. He shared his elixir with depraved noblemen, building support for himself before he finally killed his brother and seized power in Khemri. He and his immortal supporters were tyrannical rulers, slaughtering many of the citizens of Khemri. with their newfound power, they constructed the Black Pyramid, the largest structure ever built by man.
Slowly the other priest kings became afraid of Nagash and formed a confederation against him. A bloody war broke out, which culminated in the battle at the walls of Mahrak, known as the city of the gods. Here, Nagash severed the connection to the gods by killing Neferem, the embodiment of the covenant between mortals and the gods, so that he could shatter the wards protecting Mahrak. After nearly a century of warfare, Nagash’s power was broken and he fled north to avoid destruction. Unknown to the priest kings however, Nagash rebuilt his power and constructed a vast citadel, which became known as Nagashizzar, in the mountain known as Cripple Peak, seeking to take advantage of the huge reserves of warpstone there. The Skaven, also desiring the warpstone, tried many times to sack Nagashizzar and take Cripple Peak for their own. After many years of conflict, his ended in a stalemate, for they couldn’t take the fortress; however, neither could Nagash drive them away. Recognizing the potential for mutual benefit, Nagash negotiated an alliance with the Skaven, supplying them with warpstone in exchange for their aid with his plans.
The rulers of the city of Lahmia, Queen Neferata and her brother Lamashizaar, had been part of the confederation against Nagash. After Nagash was defeated outside the walls of Mahrak, Lamashizaar allied himself with Arkhan the Black in secret. They traveled to the black pyramid of Nagash, and plundered his library taking the nine books of Nagash. Lamashizaar enslaved Arkhan after he attempted to kill him. He brought the books and Arkhan back to Lahmia where he sought to recreate Nagash’s elixir and become immortal. Unwilling to kill humans to fuel the elixir because of a fear of being found out, he and his cabal of followers instead used animals. They extended their lives but did not make themselves immortal. Neferata was frustrated with the lack of progress and, desiring power for herself, she allied with Arkhan in secret and with his help created a new elixir, using it to turn the cabal to her side. Lamashizaar eventually attempted to kill her using sphinx venom which, with its magical properties, could overwhelm the elixir’s power. Arkhan, however, using sorcery andhis own foul blood,was able to save her. Arkhan then sought and killed Lamashizaar in his bedchamber, after which Arkhan was found and cut down by Abhorash, Lahmia’s most formidable warrior. Neferata through a combination of the sphinx venom and elixir turned into the first vampire. She then proceeded to turn the rest of the cabal, consisting of Lord Ushoran, W’soran, Naaima, Lord Ankhat, Zurhas, Abhorash and several others, into Vampires using the same method (though Abhorash had to be tricked into drinking the elixir). Each of the twelve masters (Nefereta included) bore particular traits, and they could expand their lineage by creating vampire servants, but through each successive generation, the powers of the vampire weakened. Abhorash became the first Blood Dragon Vampire, W’soran the first Necarch Vampire and Neferata become the first Lahmian Vampire.
The vampire cabal feigned their own deaths, using the cult of Asaph as a cover for their operations. Neferata ruled as queen behind the scenes using her mortal descendants to issue her edicts. The vampires defended their homeland but were ultimately pushed back to Lahmia itself. Alcadizaar’s armies then broke through the gates of Lahmia and set about the city. The library of Lahmia, the centre of the vampires’ lore and knowledge, was defended stoically, but the defenders were slain and died in the flames. Accepting Lahmia as lost, the vampires fled north. Of the twelve Masters, only seven survived the sacking of Lahmia.
Heading north, the remaining vampire masters encountered Nagash, who was secretly pleased with the havoc they had wreaked. Making them his captains, they lead the Undead into Nehekhara. The might of Nagash combined with the power of the vampires was awesome to behold, but they faced one of the greatest leaders of all time, Alcadizaar the Great. Through a brilliant campaign, he smashed the Undead armies, and sent the vampires fleeing from Nehekhara. Nagash, furious at being defeated, cursed the Vampires to be burnt by the rays of the sun. The Vampire Masters separated and fled into hiding.
Nagash then unleashed a plague upon Nehekhara: many hundreds of thousands died and were raised to swell the ranks of undead under Nagash’s control. Nagash used this new army to invade Nehekhara: easily overwhelming the meagre defences, he captured Alcadizaar and took him back to Nagashizzar in chains. After consuming massive amounts of warpstone, Nagash began the Ritual of the Waking to transform the whole world into an undead realm. Fearing destruction, the Skaven of Cripple Peak betrayed Nagash, freed Alcadizaar, who then (supposedly) killed Nagash with the Skaven’s Fellblade. In actuality, his spirit survived, though it took him nearly a thousand years to regenerate his body. When he was reborn in his Black Pyramid, he tried to seize control of Nehkhara once more, but the other Tomb Kings, outraged by what he had done and united under the leadership of the resurrected Settra, drove him out. Defeated, Nagash returned to Nagashizzar, only to find the Skaven had occupied it. Nevertheless, in a single night, Nagash destroyed the Skaven Clan that ruled his fortress, Clan Rikek, and seized Nagashizzar. The Skaven decided they didn’t want another war with the necromancer and left him his prize. Nagash remains in his fortress, biding his time and gathering his strength.
There are five distinct families of vampires, each descending from one of the “first vampires” or original ones created Neferata, these families are called “Bloodlines”, each with different characteristics that affect the way the armies of each operate, although the more powerful members of any vampire bloodline can cast spells, and that all vampires are formidable in combat. Games Workshop has removed the bloodlines from the new edition of the Vampire Counts Armies book; replacing them with selectable skills associated with the original bloodlines (yet mixable as though having aspects of many bloodlines).
Though they share the curse of undeath, Vampires are unique creatures with myriad abilities and traits. Some dedicate their immortal existence to mastering warfare, whilst others delve into arcane lore, create nations of Undead through political manipulations, or willingly succumb to their bestial nature.[3a]
Some characteristics are spread evenly across bloodlines, others may be confined to a single bloodline, and others still may be merely more represented in one bloodline than others.[3a][2a][2b][2c][2d][2e]
Some Vampires live a hermit-like existence in the wilds of the Old World, interacting infrequently with others of their kind. Such recluses prefer their own company, although some maintain a circle of minions to tend their needs. Through extended isolation, the Vampire loses all vestiges of its humanity.[3a]
For those who desire mastery of the dark arts, the curse of Undeath grants many long centuries during which the secrets of Necromancy can be unlocked. Such study can be arduous and perilous, but many Vampires find its lure irresistible at some point in their unlives and will seek to increase their Necromantic powers. Necromancy is at the core of a Vampire’s existence and to master it is to master themselves and their fate.[3a]
The curse of the Undead is not a stable thing, and many Vampires grow unable to control the red thirst, while others choose simply to not restrain their primal urges. Such beings swiftly devolve into terrible monsters, crazed and bestial things shunned by both the living and the dead, whose only drive is to feast upon mortal flesh and hot blood.[3a]
The martial skills of a Vampire can be fed by the red thirst and honed through centuries, or even millennia, of warfare. Few foes can stand before a Vampire who has given over his existence to the arts of the slaughterer.[3b]
Eternal life brings ample time to refine the practices and manners that are the trappings of many Vampires recruited from the noble houses of the Old World. The taint of the Undead also gifts a will as strong as steel that few mortal creatures can resist.[3b]
All Vampires can control the Undead through their innate power, but some turn their will to the domination of these creatures to the exclusion of all other goals. Such Vampires have near limitless legions at their disposal.[3b]
Several powers are found amongst a variety of bloodlines, but are not directly associated with neither a particular archetype of vampire, nor a particular bloodlines.
Due to the immunities offered by the Blood Gifts, not every Vampire suffers from the full six curses. As well, Vampires are also vulnerable to many things that plague ordinary mortals. Vampires are immune to normal weapons or injuries, and they must heal at the same rate as any creature, though they can use both blood and necromancy to mend their wounds more quickly. Vampires can also die from their wounds just like a mortal. They are only unique in that, because they lack a true soul, their spirit does not depart for Morrs Garden or the fury of the Realm of Chaos, thus allowing them to be summoned back to this world more easily than any other creature.[5j]
Vampires are also vulnerable to Insanity, perhaps even more so than mortals.[5j]
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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero