Archive for jiang shi

DJB: Memoirs, Volume 3: Bad Beauty

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on February 21, 2011 by vampirony

Folding memories can be taxing in the best of times, depending on the emotions embedded therein. And a split-second of an image, much like a single Chinese character, can hold a multitude of meanings when removed from context. One particular memory refused to be folded. It had always been such even though the memory was over two hundred years old. When I had been human, I had been exceptional only in my ability to be mediocre at everything I tried and in my first decades of being a vampire, I had been equally disappointing.

I hadn’t become a vampire by choice so it wasn’t something I had entered into hoping it would override the days of languishing in stupefying uselessness. However I once I had come to terms with it and learned where my peculiar vampire abilities lie, I had learned to enjoy the results. The more mastery over myself as vampire, the more confident I had become…and the more I wanted to bury the weaker times of my existence.

This memory was of one of those times as a young vampire. And the only way I seemed to be able to deal with it was to pen it back into my last volume of memoirs, in third person narrative. The years had given me perhaps a chance to find something new in my recollection, something that might be useful to the now…

When Dag Jesper Bretton, vampire, had stood upon the docks in Hong Kong, his clothes in tatters and soaked, his face smeared with ash and dirt, all he could think of as the first twinges of dawn began to taint the clouds was that he wanted to get to anywhere else but where he was now. Hong Kong had been a serious miscalculation from the start. His Danish looks made him stand out in any crowd, even at night, and even his maturing cloaking abilities did not shield him here.

The local Jiang-Shi, soul vampires as he had come to know, would never be willing to share their nighttime haunts with a foreign European devil. More than once, he’d been mistaken for German and attacked as the local vampires had a particular dislike for them. He looked nothing like a German but his fair looks still seemed to elicit their strongest ire.

It hadn’t helped things that his female traveling companion had vanished days after they’d arrived. He’d admittedly been a little glamoured by the French vampiress and running away to the Orient with her had seemed ever so romantic. She’d been petite, beautiful with marble for skin and by all accounts had been duly impressed with him being many decades her elder.

It had been a harsh reminder of how horrifyingly bad his love life had always been excepting one bright spot which he even now refused to let himself think on.

The little French vampiress had abandoned him, likely tired of him in favor of some rich, exotic opium dealer. She’d talked of little else on the trek over. But then again, travelling in the night, sometimes nailed into burlap-wrapped boxes, strapped to coaches, in trains, on ships, for hours with nothing to give them peace from each other except the dawn and its insistent comatose sleep, surely that was more time together than a casual affair could bear.

“God kveld!”

Jesper raised his head at the familiar sound. He never forgot a voice anymore. So intrinsic to his survival was it that he knew immediately that it was the big friendly if slightly myopic Norwegian he’d met earlier in a brothel while trying to find his vampiress. The place, more opium den than pleasure house, was trying to cheat the burly but affable sailor. Normally, Jesper stayed clear of entanglements but when thoroughly drunk and trying to make sense of his circumstances the big Norwegian started to curse in Danish as well as Norwegian, the sound of his mother tongue had compelled Jesper to help. It had been a small matter. The Norwegian had been settled with exactly the kind of company he’d wanted.

“God kveld, Gregers.”

A smile of all his crooked and missing teeth split the Norwegian’s face. He extended a hand and slapped Jesper on the shoulder. Had Jesper not his preternatural strength, the blow might’ve landed him in the bay.

While short on conversation, more mutters and grunts, Jesper had been able to surmise that his assistance had been timely: Gregers’ ship was about to sail to the Americas, San Francisco to be exact. Had Jesper believed he had any other luck besides this current string of bad, he might have felt that fortune was finally smiling upon him. Gregers had noted Jesper’s keen eye and they needed a night watch onboard. With very little prodding, Jesper soon found himself onboard, glamouring the captain into strict instructions on how he must never be disturbed during the day so that his sight would be sharply adjusted for the night.

Weeks of searching for his vampiress had netted more than a few scraps with the local Jiang-Shi warlord, Teng-Wen. He’d managed to escape each time but a whisper grew into a rumor of a night banshee that was high on drugged up missionaries.

Jesper had no proof that it was Bellecroix, the French temptress, with her doe like brown eyes. But the Jiang-Shi had started to call this night banshee the Dark Pearl and since Jesper had known her, Bellecroix had never removed the string of pearls from around her neck. Yes, it was time to leave before Teng-Wen and his horror made any connection between Jesper and this Dark Pearl.

Whatever evil she had fallen under (here, the author must remind himself that Vampirism might be considered the ultimate evil incarnate), Bellecroix was beyond his reach.

Within an hour, just as dawn was breaking through, Jesper was buried deep in the bowels of the ship, huddled under tarps, living in those last moments before dawn took all his consciousness. The fear was there again, yet another place to learn, new arrangements to try and make, all on his own again. But there were possibilities too. He’d always wondered about the new world, been curious to see it but like so many vampires, the voyage itself seemed ever so daunting and unbelievably perilous. But as night watch on a boat full of the proverbial drunken sailors, this had to be the golden goose, he’s very best chance of staking a place out for his own.

In some ways, Jesper didn’t really care. The dread he was under had repeated its refrain, over and over, until it drowned out all fear and doubt: Anywhere but here.

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The Problem with Recovery

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2009 by vampirony

Out in the cooler night air, it’s easier to think.  Of course I had said take a walk but Morena didn’t like the idea of hanging around that area of Bellevue to chat so I let her take me into her area called Ballard.  Suddenly, I had been hit with the maritime history of the area and felt closer to the sea.  She had to correct my thinking, that there was this large body of water called Puget Sound, that we weren’t actually all that close to the ocean.

Many lifetimes past and the idea of open ocean still felt strange to me, proof positive of how much our current daily lives make use forget what once we had known.  Shes showing me around Ballard.  It’s very cute and towny in a way Bellevue just isn’t.  There’s a realness, like someone could wear this place, live her that I just don’t get from the artifice of Bellevue.  Or at least the place Bellevue is becoming, so much glass and mirrors.

Morena wants to understand about my idea of what she calls Immortality.   Jespers been giving her the Vampire litany, I suspect.

“It’s not that, really,” I try to explain.  “And theologically, I’m not quite Buddhist or Hindu but there are basic concepts I not only agree with, I know.  It’s the idea that I’ve lived past angellives, each one leading up to a time when I will have earned enough karma to bypass this earthly world and reach the time of true spirit.  Well, not exactly that, but that’s the terms I know to explain to a layperson.”

She nods.  “And enlightenment.  Or something like that.”

“Not enlightenment.  That dictates some sense of self.  it’s about becoming one with all things, losing one’s individuality and melding into the universe.”  Lovely talk for a walk by the locks.

She smirks.  “Like the Borg.”

I laugh at the reference.  “Um, no.  Not at all.”

“I don’t get it.  All I want is to be able to carve out a place for myself in this world and you seem to want to, I don’t know, do the opposite.”

I could finally see her struggle.  “You’re Catholic, right?”

She tosses me a look.  “How’d you guess?”  We keep walking and she seems to answer her own question, stuffing her hands in her pockets.  “Recovering.”

“No one really recovers from being Catholic.  It’s too strong a belief system for most to just give up.  It promises Heaven…and Hell.  But only through the Spirit and the Holy Ghost.  It’s a very digestible idea that when you die, you go live on a plane of existence somewhere, beyond pain and suffering, that you’ll see you loved ones again, and will be with your God and will know the answers to all things.  It’s not so different.”

She sighs.  “I don’t know about all that.  I used to.  But if God allows demons on Earth…the Church never told us about that.  I’ve seen things, done things, that I have to believe are sins but I’ve asked, believe me, I’ve confessed, only to be told to do penance, to amend my life, and do ten Hail Marys.”

And here we are at the crux of her conflict.  “Did you tell your confessor that you’re giving blood to a vampire?”

“Not in those exact words.”

“Then why are you convinced it’s a sin?”

“It’s an unnatural creature.  It has to be.”

“No more unnatural that you or I.  Somehow out of a bundle of microscopic cells, we grow into sentient beings with souls.  Vampires are life, yes, just another form, a transformation out of human.”

“But they are immortal.”

“Not exactly.  In the truest sense of the word, definitely not.  They can be killed.”

“If Jesper heard you, he’d say…”

I sigh, then mockingly, “Yes, I know.  I am Vampire.”

“You’ve heard that before?”

“More time than I can count.  It’s a motto or something.  Like Be Prepared or Semper Fi.”

Don’t Tread on Me.”

We both laugh.  “Exactly.  As I’ve said, there are various types of vampires.  But there are defining characteristics, just like you and I are both humans but in appearance, attitude, ethnicity we are different.”

“But we’re still the same subspecies.  Even I know that.  Homo Sapiens Sapiens.”

She’s getting it and losing her tension all at the same time.  We fear all we do not understand.  Some seek to uncover the truth while others flee it.  “What do you know about Australia?”

“Why?”

I tell her how Australia developed specialized creatures found nowhere else do to their landlocked, isolated populations, driven by external stimuli to evolve.  “Vampires developed in the same way.”

“So that’s why you talk about the Carpathian.  He’s a subspecies.”

I can’t help the shudder, hope I catch it before she notices.  She doesn’t seem to.   “Next to the Jiang Shi, they are the most dangerous.”  We’ve walked past the locks toward some shops intermixed with bars in a warehouse district on the water.   “They seem driven by fear and anger more than any other type.  While I understand all those forces, I have yet to successfully rehabilitate one.  Not for lack of trying.”

“Rehabilitate?”

“As you have already seen, vampires don’t need to kill to subsist.  There are plenty of humans willing to provide for them.  They are intelligent enough, powerful enough to control what they need to to stay safe and comfortable.  And most adult vampires have aged enough to control their urges in modern society.  It’s sheer necessity.  In a media age, too much killing would draw attention and expose them all.  The modern vampire has adjusted.”

“Like Jesper.”

I would pat myself on the back later for not skipping a beat.  “Jesper could be self-taught or the one who made him choose him quite well.  I don’t get any sense from him that he isn’t in full control of himself or his thirst.  The dreams seems his only trouble.  Carpathians live in a constant state of threat to which their reponse is aggression.”

“And you’ve tried to rehabilitate one before?”

“Twice, actually.  Both times, I died.”tanning

Morena stops me walking by grabbing my arm.  “I’m sorry what do you mean you died?”

I look her in the face and my gut tells me there’s still something troubling her, some secret.  Maybe it’s because she’s starting to trust me.  I can’t put my finger on it.

“My last death was caused by a Carpathian name Valerian Nyssus.  He decapitated me and then cut my body into little pieces.  He was hoping to have me alive during most of his torture but I so irritated him that he knocked my head clean off.”

There is a deathly silence and even under the street lamp, I can see her face go pale.  There’s a bank of old corrugated steel buildings, converted to commercial retail spaces along the docks.  A neon light winks above us:  24 hour TANNING.

“You are crazy.  What would possess you to try again after…after something like that?”

“To be honest, I didn’t know Skovajsa was Carpathian when I came up here.  I’m still not convinced he’s what he says he is.  But I’ll know more tonight.”

And that’s when I begin to hear it, the murmuring.  Just under the sound of muted traffic and geese.  I lose sight of the neon sign for a moment and an image from the book appears to me, its pages flipping furiously, then everything blurs…

Vampire Factbook excerpt: Six Degrees of Influence

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2009 by vampirony

While variations have been recorded within the types (see Chapter 1: I am Vampire), there are standard ways vampires effect a human’s behavior.  The ability to influence humans toward the vampire’s wishes can often mark the difference between a long preternatural life and a quick death by stake or burning.  Considering the complex world in which vampire- human relationships exist (prey, partner or predator), vampires often use whatever influence abilities they possess without conscious thought or practice.  Although these abilities can be honed and skillfully applied, vampires lack the tutelage in most respects to excel past the limitations of their own necessitated experiences. 

Overall, influence can be measured by the degree of control over the human and the effort involved which can work to either attract or repel depending on the aims of the vampire.

  • Cloud – Clouding is the simplest and weakest of influences, allowing the vampire to mask his presence and guide the human toward or away from the vampire without the human’s awareness.  Vampires have an inherent polarity that as they mature, they need to gain more control over to meet their needs.  Negative vampires tend to cause general discomfort in surrounding humans, a feeling of ill ease that most humans will move away from.  This serves as a defensive mechanism, especially for younger vampires who are still learning to control their needs and abilities.  Positive vampires tend to attract human attention wherever they go.  Fewer positive vampires survive to maturity because of this but have been observed to develop stronger powers of influencing humans because of this underlying attraction. 
  • Charm – Charm, while mostly associated with attracting humans, can be used either way, however the influence is actively asserted.  Charm can be used to change the attitudes of a human to be more amenable to the vampire. #Charm includes very simple enforcement of the vampire’s will upon the human and, in measured doses, has no lasting effect on the individual human.  It is often used in conjunction with Clouding to influence a human to forget the encounter in which the charm occurred.  For example,  a vampire might charm prey to leave a public place to walk home alone and cloud them to not remember the conversation at all.  Charm almost always involves vocal engagement to activate, unlike Clouding which is an inherent state of the vampire’s being.
  • Persuasion – Persuasion, while more active than charm, greatly depends on the human’s pliability to the request or suggestion.  It often involves influencing the human to some action that might at first seem unpleasant but upon further consideration, seems agreeable as it might make some favorable end.  It’s analogous to changing a person’s opinion on a subject by convincing them they’d always thought that way or that it was their idea.  #Because persuasion involves knowledge of the human’s attitudes, it typically involves more of the vampire’s sensory abilities (see Chapter 2: Nature of the Beast) however still leaves no lasting mark beyond the encounter.
  • Entrance – Entrancing begins a quickly accelerating process of binding a human to a particular vampire.  Entrancing first involves creating a state of deep connection whether mental, emotional, or physical with the human in order to elicit their behavior in exchange for pleasing the vampire.  In other words, the vampire enraptures (syn) the human by making them a willing servant and then giving them some task to do for reinforcement, usually in the form of physical or emotional closeness with the vampire if positive and escape from bodily harm or mental torture if negative.  This two step process is exactly the same as with Spellbinding however, in this case, leaves a transient tie in the human.  Depending on the pliability of the human and the strength at which they have been entranced, this state can last for weeks or months but usually no more than a season.
  • Spellbind – Unlike Entrancing, the effects of Spellbinding a human are permanent unless released by the vampire* but unlike first thought, spellbinding does not produce a completely compliant human.  The increased awareness of most humans under spellbinding can lead to erratic behaviors and agitation as the human tries to show the vampire their devotion.  Vampires have often had human cohorts (see Chapter 3: Favor of the Beast) slain by spellbound followers in fits of jealous rage.  Spellbinding requires vigilance on the part of the vampire to protect both vampire and human from the worst possible fallout of spellbinding, wrecking.  However, a properly managed spellbound companion can prove a highly effective daytime steward for the vampire.  Most adult vampires have a single spellbound companion (aka devotee) while elder vampires and ancients, because of their abilities, can easily manage many devotees.
  • Wreck – Wrecking involves the vampire exerting so much force of will on the human that the human either emotionally or mentally breaks.  This can also happen from circumstances on a devotee when the stress of trying to please escalates into overwhelming need and jealousy.  Wrecked individuals can very rarely be rehabilitated as the tie to the vampire remains intact while their will and/or mind, both necessary for any release, has been broken.   Contrary to popular myth, wrecking humans happens more out of inexperience than intention but some vampires have been observed to prefer this method of trapping humans before feeding, gaining satisfaction from the process.  Whether a learned or inherited,  it is preferred by the most dangerous vampires, the Carpathanians, but occasionally practiced by other types.  Jiang Shi have also been known to prefer wrecking when the life essence of a human prey could not be successfully absorbed.

It is not quite understood whether or not vampires can also be effected by these influences.  Vampires are often born with an existing tie to another vampire, their maker.  Further, the blood tie may in fact usurp any other influence as it shares the vampire’s powers with its offspring.  This may offer continual protection against any other influence being exerted on them by other vampires.  Because vampires tend to live isolated with no organization (unlike werewolves), studying vampire interactions becomes difficult.  It is hard to know how much of the interplay between random vampire encounters evolves from vampire-human influencing versus their own complicated human-into-vampire emotional journeys.

*note: One alleged case of vampire “exorcism” is known but the details are as of yet undocumented as the human died shortly afterwards in childbirth.