Cursed by Apollo, taken captive by Agamemnon, she died by Aigisthos' sword in the bloodbath that killed the King of Men. Clairvoyant that she was, she knew too well what awaited her – the nightmare nonentity of Hades. She clung to her body and thereby was bound to her tomb. But at least she could linger in the light.
After a few years of hanging about, invisibly, it occurred to her to try to animate her body, now reduced to a skeleton. She succeeded, and also succeeded in covering it with a glamour of her old self, but the effort was exhausting. She "slept," and tore prana away from local dreamers – the remains of the Atreides, whom she had scant love for.
She haunted the island in the first peace she had known since Apollo, watching with satisfaction as the Heroic Age died. She kept her animation and her glamour going with dream-stolen prana. A banshee-like legend grew up about her. Centuries rolled, and she heard of the Israelites, folk who worshipped only a single primordial god and despised all other deities. Good for them; she approved.
Eventually, Olympus fell. Apollo died and his curse was undone. She continued haunting, staring into the future, now sometimes able to warn dreamers and be believed. The banshee-legend died as she spent less time at home, became more selective in the dreamers she milked, roamed deeper into the Dreamworld, exploring and feeding.
She also roamed the eastern Mediterranean. She became an observer, a sort of tourist. By fortune-telling it was easy to earn enough money to travel, when she needed no food or shelter, leaving only a track of nightmare behind her. She visited Israel a few times. She saw Rome and Alexandria and Babylon.
On the first Christmas, when Pan died, she was visited by an amazing series of visions. Before the Christ-child was presented at the Temple and hailed by Simeon and Anna, she had taken ship for Patmos, where she started making ready.
Cassandra is an undead, a walking skeleton. She is not a blood-drinker, but takes prana from dreamers, both on Earth and in the Dreamworld. Her powers include precognition, of course, the animation of her skeleton, and a great deal of first-order glamour (optical and acoustic TK). She is also a powerful general clairvoyant and, by now, deeply learned in the nature of djinn, ka'u, ka-gods, ghosts, vampires, ghouls, and the dreamworld.
She has no supernatural vulnerabilities, but is frail and can only lift a few pounds. She cannot disguise her light weight, and a touch would reveal something very wrong. Unless she keeps her glamour at hightest pitch, her shadow is dim, except for the bones showing through.
He was one of the rare souls to reincarnate, and, this time, he was one of the still rarer ones that remembered the earlier lives. So, when he died, he was expecting to reincarnate again. He was surprised and dismayed when he did not. It took him a long time to figure out that reincarnation depends on a degree of passivity in the transmigrating soul, a passivity he had lost in his last life, in which his profound meditations had taught him to feel and control his use of prana. By the time he figured it out, an assumed passivity was no longer any use; his karma had changed.
He decided the best thing he could do was continue his self-education. He set out for Athens, then Egypt once more, then Babylon. Travel was hard for a ghost, but he could gather the necessary prana by meditating, especially on his favorite topic: number. He made slow progress this way, but he was patient. He would not steal prana.
Not steal, no. But he came up with another way to get prana. One of his mathematical interests, unrecorded by history, was in probability. He had realized that chance, luck, could be quantified. He had been delighted: it was watching Order, Number, invade, conquer, and colonize Chaos. And, even though he got no further that quantifying odds as ratios, it gave him a considerable advantage; he could have made his fortune as a gambler. In life, he did not deign to.
Now, though, he had a motive. Starting with a couple of obols found in the street and summoning up the strength to manifest, he appeared in a dockside tavern and, taken for living, joined in the gambling. In a few nights, he had money to win and lose. He was careful to win just a little more than he lost. When the others were out of money, he would smile and offer to wager "a good night's sleep." They thought he was being generous, charitable. But he collected, and they either did not sleep that night or slept without refreshment, while he grew stronger.
After one or two such experiences, the dockside gamblers decided he was a magician. He did not disabuse them. Some felt that, magician or no, he was a very generous man with a wager. And some of these, he saw, were ruining themselves with their gambling. To such, he would come in their unrestful dreams, taking the prana and sermonizing against prodigality. Nightmares are bad enough; boring guilt-trip nightmares that you can't escape, with imagery of future destitution and shame, are worse. Some, he managed to scare straight.
In a few years, he managed to accumulate enough power to manifest continually, if he wished, and move freely; he accumulated enough wealth to set up a household for himself – all the easier when he needed no food, fire, or clothes. He settled in Sais, Egypt, though traveling often, to make his tours of gambling halls as much as to seek out books and their authors.
Euclid delighted him.
In Egypt, he studied djinn, ka'u, and ka-gods, magic and alchemy. He took djinn as his house servants and grew disillusioned with much magic and alchemy.
He heard of the Israelites, of course, and was much taken with the idea of worshipping the One. When the seventy scholars of the Septuagint started their project, he haunted them invisibly, struck their acquaintance visibly, and taught them gematria. Afterward, he journeyed to Jerusalem, to see the Temple to the One. There, much to his surprise, he dreamed, or rather had a vision. The bright spirit that appeared to him told him, "When the numbers of Daniel are summed, go to Patmos."
In due course, when the sixty-nine sevens were run, he went to Patmos, and there met Cassandra, and settled down to wait.
Pythagoras is a ghost vampire and barely a vampire at all: he wins prana fairly by gambling for it. He is expert in the scholarly side of occultism and knows just how worthless most of it is. He also knows a great deal about the spirit world, though not nearly so much as Cassandra. He is enormously learned and keeps up with it; his house in Sais was mostly library, and his new home in Patmos is the same.
He has no supernatural vulnerabilities. He can appear in waking life or dreams but has virtually no physical power beyond what can open a door, page through a book, write out an equation, or throw a pair of dice. If he isn't careful, he has no shadow or reflection. He never has any weight. If he isn't prepared, he's impalpable.
He was born to a noble house in Persia, but, in a feud during his childhood, his family was wiped out and he was captured, eunuched, and sold into slavery. But he was a very pretty boy, which got him sold, eventually, to the household of the emperor, Darius. There he served for several years.
While Bagoas was still young, Darius fell to Alexander. Surprisingly, Alexander was willing to take on his fallen enemy's servants, and Bagoas was soon part of the Macedonian's court, along with several other Persians. He, like many another, fell under the charismatic king's spell. Eventually, he became Alexander's personal valet.
After Alexander's death, he weathered the Succession Wars and served in the house of a third king, Ptolemy I, in Egyptian Alexandria. He expected to grow old and die in Alexandria. He did not, exactly.
His wealthy and honorable old age was ended by an odd "illness" that would have looked like emphysema. In fact, he was being preyed on by an Egyptian vampire that sucked his breath every night. In a few weeks, he was "dead."
He wanted to be buried in the old Zoroastrian way: excarnation. So his servants put him out on an elevated rack, in the desert, for the vultures and jackals to clean. But the scavengers were put off when he tossed and muttered like a man in a feverish sleep. That night, he woke and slowly realized his condition. He was dismayed; he had expected, prayed, to be over the River of Fire by the Sword Bridge, by now, and back with his beloved Alexander. He spent a month in the desert, not hungry, not thirsty, not hot, not cold, slowly weakening, thinking.
Eventually, he went back to Alexandria, by night. He had worked his way up from the gutter in life; he could do it again in death. Walking the night streets, he smelled the breath of the living and immediately knew what to do about his growing weakness.
He got work at an inn, presenting himself as an elderly Persian refugee, narrowly escaped from a caravan attacked by bandits. The innkeeper got an excellent bargain, for he was quite tireless, preferring to work far into the night.
There were a few stories of beggars and tosspots, in the nearby streets, waking from sleep to find a dark figure leaning over them, face to face, which fled, leaving them with short breath like an asthma attack. Nothing came of them.
The inn prospered and the innkeeper was grateful. Bagoas refined his technique, and found that, at night, his speed, strength, and agility were all marvelously increased. Sometimes, guests complained their rooms were stuffy.
A few years later, he had is own inn, across town. It prospered, and the clientele grew slowly but steadily higher-class. It was an excellent inn. Well, sometimes the rooms were stuffy.
Slowly, carefully, he explored the occult underside of Alexandria. He learned about the djinn, the ghosts, the wizards, the criminals with magical tricks, the alchemists, the nobles with magical tricks, and the other vampires. They learned of him, and learned that some of them could come to him for help, if they were careful.
He found the vampire than had turned him and killed it. Here's a useful tip: Egyptian breath-vampires are repelled by white feathers, but this applies only to those who are Egyptian pagans, not those who are Zoroastrians. The wretch was a desert mummy, mere bones under skin under rags. It thanked him as he broke it to pieces, which was annoying. He burned the pieces, and that was that.
That was that. There was nothing more to do, except "live" a life of genteel prosperity, waiting for the day bad luck got him killed as a monster. He considered suicide many times, but could not bring himself to it. He thought of turning others, to give himself permanent companions, but he could not do that either. He endured.
Then Pan died. Every creature in Alexandria that was the least bit magical felt it. Spirits fleeing Greece brought details of the tale. A few years later, occult rumor connected it with the supposed Jewish Messiah, whose cult had outlasted his death on the strength of his tale of resurrection.
He was interested. Zoroastrians knew about saviors and resurrections. In fact, he believed the Jews had got such ideas from their time under Cyrus and his successors. A few years later, he let a young church meet in his inn. He listened. He converted.
He had been hoping to crumble into dust and go to his reward, or maybe stop being a vampire. Neither happened. But, a couple of years later, Cassandra and Pythagoras showed up and introduced themselves. He was, they told him, the first Christian vampire, and they had a mission for him to share.
So he "expanded his business" and established a second inn on Patmos. Over the centuries, he has maintained some kind of presence on Patmos ever since.
Bagoas is an Egyptian-style vampire, taking prana by "sucking the breath" of his prey, which leaves them with an experience similar to an asthma attack, or, if he "pulls his punch" (which he usually does), a feeling of stuffiness and shortness of breath. Bagoas could kill a normal human by preying on them every night for a month. If they had any slight ability to detect or control prana, they would then become a vampire in turn. Over the centuries, he has killed this way four times, under extreme provocation; each time, he made sure the body was cremated, precluding a new vampire.
Bagoas casts shadows and reflections normally, but weighs only about thirty pounds and has no way to disguise this fact, other than lead weights in his clothes. Thanks to his religion, he has no supernatural vulnerabilities. He has three times the strength and speed of a normal human, and can squeeze through any crack that admits a draft, but only at night.
He came from the lukewarm church Christ threatened to vomit out of his mouth (Rev. 3:14-22), and he was part of the problem. Baptized in early adolescence, he was a quite nominal Christian in his early twenties. He was very quiet about his Christianity, wore lucky charms, consulted popular fortune-tellers, and, in general, could hardly be distinguished from the pagan background.
What really interested him were sports – not gladiatorial bloodfests, but horse races, foot races, and, especially, wrestling. He spent rather too much time and money going to such events. He was big and strong, and trained in wrestling at the gymnasium, but never got around to entering in the games himself. Such entry required too much pagan religious ceremony, and, lukewarm though he might be, he could not figure out a way of getting into the games that would satisfy both his bishop and the athletic officials.
Before he could finally pick sides or find a way to weasel through, he appeared to take ill and die. In fact, he was vampirized. He rose from his tomb, realized in horror what he was, and spent the next week in the nearby hills, in a deep funk. Bloodthirst drove him back to town, where he subsisted mostly on short sips from horses, oxen, and drunks. He gradually came to know the local supernaturals, who were not numerous. He soon located the vampire who had turned him and tried to attack. But he was surprised and mortified to find he could be ordered off with a short command.
His "sire" showed up again, a short time later, and commanded him to steal money and turn it over. Alexis had to obey. Seeing where this was going, desperate to avoid a life of magical slavery as and to a horror, he went to his bishop.
The poor man was, of course, horrified. With John's stinging rebuke still burning in his mind, he told the young vampire to go to Patmos and pray at the saint's tomb, the man having died in the last two or three years. Alexis went, and there, while praying, was met by Cassandra.
The least accomplished of the vampires, he acts as muscle and guardsman and factotum. He generally hangs about with Bagoas.
Alexis is a fairly traditional vampire. He requires blood, though he generally subsists on raw meat, which he sucks dry. He prefers it served warm and is not averse to condiments. This includes garlic; he's Greek, after all. He can eat and drink normal food, too. He is not repelled by religious symbols, due to his calling, but is vulnerable to silver.
At night, he has the strength of ten, is vastly tough, can run too fast to see, can slip through cracks, and can turn into an owl. During the day, he is nearly normal. He casts shadows and reflections normally.
They are not exactly like Romeo and Juliet, since their families started out as allies, prominent members of the merchant class of Constantinople – a sector of the merchant class that enhanced its efforts with magic, in the sort of stew of Christian and pagan elements you see in people much more interested in results than in orthodoxy or intellectual coherence.
Irene and John were both promising magical talents in their respective houses. They were also childhood friends and, eventually, sweethearts. Their families agreed readily to their betrothal, at first, all the more on political grounds (bonding the families seemed a good idea) and "eugenic" grounds (they ought to produce some powerful talents in their children, for the good of both clans).
But then the two families had a falling out. The betrothal could not be readily broken, but it was put on an indefinite hold that dismayed both the principals. Matters got worse, and the families began talking of sending John to a monastery and Irene to a convent. More dismay.
Then, one night, violence broke out between the young men of the two houses, down at the docks, and John wound up getting knocked out and tossed into the sea. Irene arrived minutes later and, on hearing John appeared to be drowned, played her occult trump card, Simon.
Simon claimed to be an angel, but had often demanded things like the sacrifices of lambs or cocks. Simon now appeared as a water-spout (the combatants fled) and demanded Irene's perpetual service as his vampire agent, as his price for rescuing John. She gave it.
Simon then hauled John out of the water, clinically dead. For whatever reason – probably to acquire John, too – Simon proceeded to revive him by turning him into a vampire, too. John, awaking, learned first what was becoming of him and second what Irene had paid for it. To save both their souls, he refused the bargain and tried to dive back into the sea and finish drowning. Irene, seeing what Simon was doing to John, reneged. Simon wasn't having any of that.
There followed a duel arcane between Simon and the two freshly-vampirized mages – a young couple screaming at a water-spout, down at the docks of Constantinople, in the middle of the night, with the water-spout screaming back.
They won, abruptly, after calling on the holy angels, when a lightning bolt struck down through the water-spout, destroying it. Unlike common lightning, it stayed there, dancing on the water. A voice of thunder told them to flee and serve God. The bolt vanished. They fled.
The next night, they emerged from their bolt-hole and sought out their bishop. They told him ... much of their adventure. He told them to foreswear magic and dedicate themselves to good works. They assented.
They had not, however, told the bishop that they were still vampires.
Since their families believed them dead, they took the opportunity of vanishing deeper into the Byzantine occult underground. There, they practiced no magic but found they did not need to in order to be keenly aware of its use. They made a marginal and confused living, for some months, as somewhat Robin-Hoody guardians and advisors to victims of the occult. They preyed off back-alley thugs. Then a suave, dapper old gentleman appeared, with a large manservant, asking around for them. They contacted the visitors and learned that they, too, were vampires. In fact, they were Bagoas and Alexis.
Irene and John are expert in occult matters, though they never practice magic. Though "headquartered" on Patmos, they move about a good deal, and, with Bagoas, are the group's main eyes and ears on current affairs.
They are vampires of the same class as Alexis, with the same powers and vulnerabilities.
She was a monastic of the Greater Schemata in a small convent on Santorini, and was not abbess only because she did not care to be; she was offered the post four times. She was busy enough, being local physician, midwife, councilor, locator of lost items, prognosticator of storms and earthquakes (very important on Santorini), and general wise-woman. She was also an exorcist, as many a ghost, kallikanzeros, and especially vampire had learned.
Finally, she was an agent of the Logothetes, the Eastern Orthodox Order. A wise-woman on Santorini was in an excellent position to give the Logothetes a steady flow of information on esoteric activities. Much of her information came from the cowed vampires of Santorini, who found it paid to be temperate, flexible, and circumspect about their appetites while she was alive, and patiently waited for the day when she would go to her reward. Unfortunately for them...
There was a fellow from Sicily who called himself Stregus. He was a mage and a ghost-eater, who deliberately turned vampire as a career move. A few years later, he fled to Santorini to recover, having lost out in a territorial dispute.
He was determined it should be a recovery, not a retirement. After laying low for some time, and taking stock, Stregus decided that he could raise a useful number of followers from the Santorini vampires, especially if he could be their hero by getting Sister Athanasia off their backs. So he selected a young woman in Athanasia's village and proceeded to prey on her, slowly but persistently.
Sister Athanasia duly arrived to do battle, of course. Usually, such a case was the work of a newly arrived vampire than needed to be taught the local rules. (Rule 1: Don't provoke Sister Athanasia.) And most such new arrivals were exhausted and desperate.
But she had not gotten where she was by being unprepared or by being over-confident. When the dust settled, the young woman was fine, though her cottage was not, and Stregus was convincingly dead. She had as much as possible gathered up and burnt, just in case. Then she went back to her cell, to rest.
All too soon, she felt completely rested, but thirsty. A few quick tests, and she knew what had happened. Her first move was to pray for release. After long pondering, she walked to Oia, the port town, and down to the watery brim of the caldera, meaning to throw herself in. She went, of course, at night.
She was surprised to see a little ship approaching in the moonlight. It was far too swift for the available wind, and far too bright for the moonlight. It came straight toward her and, when it was a little way off, the sailor cried to her, "Come back at the next full moon."
She turned and started back up the steps of the cliffs. At the first landing, she looked down, but the ship was no longer there.
She returned to her cell and destroyed the letter she had left to be sent to the Logothetes. She wrote a new letter, instead. A few weeks later, as the sun set and the full moon rose, a trade ship came in, bearing Bagoas and Alexis. They found Sister Athanasia standing on the dock, waiting for them, a very small bag beside her.
Sister Athanasia could be a standard Greek vampire if she wanted to lower her standards. As it is, she has never bitten anyone or any beast. Normally, she just meditates for her daily prana, in a manner analogous to the mathematical meditations Pythagoras uses for a slow prana draw. She has occasionally sucked on raw meat. She quickly learned how to suck breath and delve into the Dreamworld. She has been known to play cards or chess for prana. She has also been known to rip every last scintilla of prana out of an enemy's being, sometimes causing them to crumble into dust or evaporate on the spot. (Rule 1: Don't provoke Sister Athanasia.)
She casts normal reflections and shadows. She has enormous strength and speed during the night. She has been known to have it during the day, when she needs it. She is still an agent of the Logothetes, and now the other six vampires of Patmos are, too.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010