Vampires (Hominis nocturnae, Latin: "Nocturnal Human") are an offshoot of humanity created by exposure to a unique virus, granting them super-human abilities, at the cost of needing to consume human blood to survive. Virtually all present-day vampires have forgotten that the virus actually has a supernatural origin, though the legends are ultimately real.
Vampirism is a biological condition caused by a Parvovirus, not a supernatural affliction - although the ritual to awaken the vampire blood god La Magra using pureblood vampires indicates that the vampire virus does possess some supernatural elements. Vampires are a biological species, being a branch of Homo sapiens called Homines nocturna and as such they are not affected by religious symbols such as crucifixes and holy water. Other attributes traditionally associated with vampires such as turning into mist or a bat are false.
Mostly forgotten legends in ancient vampire texts say that they descend from Drake, also known as Dracula, an ancient Sumerian immortal who was worshipped as a god, and in whom the virus originated. Almost all present-day vampires, however, have forgotten the supernatural origins of their species.
Vampires are intricately involved in most aspects of modern human society and most have become adept at manipulating the capitalistic nature of society to cover up and finance their illegal and unethical activities. Rather than feral monsters, vampires maintain a secret, mafia-like power cabal within modern society.
Vampirism is a virus most often transferred via the saliva of a vampire into the victim's bloodstream through a bite. The incubation period is usually 72 hours after infection, by which time the virus will mutate the victim into a vampire by creating new parasitic organs. During this incubation period the infected will start feeling an aversion to sunlight, and intense thirst no matter how much they drink.
Even a person who is technically "killed" shortly after becoming infected will still revive as a vampire, if they are not properly drained of blood. So long as their brain and heart are intact, their body's tissues won't actually die, but will be regenerated by the virus (they are medically "dead" in the technical sense that their heart stops for several hours - but it is impossible to infect and revive someone who was already dead). Infected humans who die and revive in this manner have a shorter incubation period, only a few hours as opposed to 3 days.
Marcus Van Sciver reveals that transformation from bites is not a highly reliable means of transmitting the vampire virus and is considered uncivilized and savage. He turns Krista Starr simply by injecting her with his blood via hypodermic syringe and dropping her from a two story building onto a car, killing her. She rises as a vampire over one hour later. When an infected person is "killed" - in the process of the virus reviving them - they experience an After Death Experience (or ADE), in which they have visions both of their own dreams and memories as their cognitive functions reconstruct, and of when the vampire that infected them was turned (the latter is obtained via the infector's genetic memories transferred to the infected person). The ADE also gives a permanent neuro-genetic connection between the new vampire and the vampire that turned them, although it is usually difficult to access and can only be triggered via a specified blood ritual.
The vampirism virus radically alters the host's physiology and metabolism, somewhat like cancer - but cancer with purpose, structure instead of chaos, creating entirely new parasitic organs inside of the body. Outwardly, vampires looks like regular humans and can visibly blend into society without being noticed by people. Vampires do grow fangs to aid in feeding, but they are retractable. One major difference is that vampires have a much lower average body temperature than humans, around 50 degrees Farenheit compared to the average human 98.6 degrees - thus making it possible to spot vampires in a crowd using an infrared camera.
A vampire cannot produce sufficient amounts of hemoglobin as the vampire virus burns away what is produced, which is why vampires must feed on blood (preferably human). Ordinary food is edible to vampires, but it is unclear if it has nutritional value to them or is only done for pleasure, as vampires can live entirely on blood alone. This need for human blood (or blood in general) is known as "the Thirst" and is considered to be a vampiric weakness as well as the primal urge that drives all vampires and permeates every aspect of their existence.
Otherwise, vampires have several strengths and weaknesses:
- Longevity: Contrary to folklore, vampires age, albeit at a significantly slower rate than humans, granting them a greatly extended lifespan. Vampires can live for centuries, if not millennium and are immune to most conventional causes of fatality. It is unclear if vampires can die of old age.
- Superhuman Strength: Vampires possess inhuman strength equivalent to that of ten strong men; allowing standard vampires to lift between 1000lbs and 4000lbs. They can leap across large distances and deliver powerful blows; sufficient to throw an adult male human across a room with enough force to crack solid surfaces such as concrete. All vampires have the advantage of overwhelming raw physical strength against any human opponent, although vampires who do not have the discipline or experience to hone their super strength, typically young vampires, with an impatient fighting style very often fall to well-trained human vampire hunters. This may also apply to older vampires who are simply too arrogant and too confident in their abilities to consider humans a threat. Thus, only the eldest, wisest, and most patient of vampires who combine the full force of their inhuman physical power with centuries of experience and discipline are able to prove virtually unstoppable; even a turned-blood may defeat a pureblood under such circumstances.
- Superhuman Agility: Vampires move with great agility, speed, and flexibility. They are also able to scale sheer surfaces including walls and ceilings. Krista Starr, a newborn vampire, was able to jump from her window onto the roof of another building in a single bound. Deacon Frost was able to easily dodge bullets fired by Blade - though this is at the extreme end of a very skilled vampire, as most vampires are not usually able to dodge Blade's gunfire.
- Superhuman Senses: A vampire's senses are sharper than those of a human. They can see into the ultraviolet spectrum and possess perfect visual clarity in total darkness. One way they make use of this is to leave hidden glyphs in ultraviolet ink. Their sense of smell allows them to catch the scent of blood.
- Accelerated Healing Factor: A vampire's wounds tend only to slow the vampire down temporarily, healing quickly (in some cases regenerating entire body parts). This process is accelerated by the amount of hemoglobin absorbed from blood. Vampires are immune to terrestrial illnesses and diseases. Vampires can perfectly heal any wound, thus purebloods who were born as vampires have no scars: visible scars are a giveaway that a vampire was only turned.
- Blood-Thirst: Because vampires have an inability to sustain enough hemoglobin (the virus causes hemolysis), they develop a form of anemia. This causes them to have a craving for blood, similar to food craving and substance dependence. If a vampire does not feed on blood for a long period of time, it will develop withdrawal symptoms and become gradually weaker and eventually die. The need for blood is referred to as "the Thirst" and is considered the defining and driving factor of all vampires.
- Ultraviolet Light: Being exposed to sunlight will severely burn and ultimately kill a vampire. This is not a supernatural relationship with the sun, as any UV light source will harm a vampire due to their inability to produce defenses in the skin. Blade uses a portable UV flashlight unit in the first film, and by the second film is using smaller gun-mounted UV lights. Some vampires have discovered that by applying heavy amounts of sunblock, mascara, or other materials to their exposed skin, they can functionally move around in daylight for a limited length of time without significant harm. Others have worn full-body covering suits (i.e. motorcycle helmets) to move around during the day. Those that produce a natural defense in the body from UV-light, allowing them to move around in daylight are called "Daywalkers" - but they are one-in-a-million rarities.
- Silver & Garlic: Vampires are fatally allergic to silver and garlic which causes them to go into anaphylactic shock and possibly death. For this reason vampire-hunters like Blade rely on weapons made of silver, such as hollow-point silver bullets filled with garlic. Non-lethal wounds from silver weapons are more difficult for vampires to heal. Whistler also developed an aerosol mace composed of silver nitrate mixed with garlic, which was quite effective.
- Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid: The EDTA blood-thinner used in hospitals for clearing out blood clots in arteries reacts incredibly violently with vampire blood. Injecting a vampire with a syringe filled with EDTA will cause them to literally explode into a cloud of blood in a matter of seconds.
- Decrepitude: Because vampires do age, unlike their mythological counterparts, they do seem to weaken after a certain period of their lives.
- See main article, "Vampire language"
Vampires also possess their own language, which many vampires speak. It is unclear if it is learned culturally, or passed down through some sort of genetic memory. This language also has its own writing system, referred to as "vampire glyphs", which are often used in graffiti to mark vampire hideouts.
Vampire society on the local or regional level is broken up into over a dozen major clans or 'Houses', e.g. the House of Erebus or the House of Chthon. The Houses form a united front in the Vampire Nation; the international governing hierarchy of the entire vampire race.
Over the generations, the vampires have developed an international power cabal; they control about half of the global financial institutions and own the police, bribing off human officials throughout the world to ignore and/or aid their activities. The Vampire Nation's leadership has decided that a full-scale war with humans is undesirable, so they maintain a secret truce with human governments; human politicians will ignore the vampires, and in return, the vampires will keep their numbers relatively low (not turning too many humans into new vampires).
Most of the Vampire Nation believes maintaining the truce is in their best interests. Occasionally renegade vampires pop up who disregard the Vampire Nation's rule. One such renegade was Deacon Frost, who felt that vampires should rule humans directly. Frost's actions were considered dangerous by the House of Erebus, with one leader warning him that the human governments would make things very difficult for them if their numbers increased too much.
Pure-Blood and Turn-Blood Vampires
Vampires are divided into two socio-biological categories; Pure-Blood and Turn-Blood. Pure-Bloods are born as vampires, the offspring of two people who are already vampires; this happens very rarely. Turn-Bloods vampires have had a human existence before becoming a vampire and are looked at with disdain by most of the Pure-Bloods due to their lack of vampiric purity, seeing them as a lesser breed or false vampires.
Pure-Bloods age very slowly, more so than Turn-Bloods. For example, Charlotte, a Pure-Blood vampire of the House of Chthon, was about 300 years old at the time Blade killed her, and still maintained the youthful appearance of a little girl. A Pure-Blood vampire that looks like an elderly adult is truly ancient. While vampires do have a massively extended lifespan, they are not truly "immortal", though they can live for so many thousands of years that the eldest among them may have been around since the dawn of human civilization.
Very few pure-blooded vampires have scars, because they have the ability to biologically regenerate from birth - meaning that unless injured with silver, they will heal all injuries flawlessly and age at an incredibly slow pace. In contrast, a turned-vampire will retain any scars they had from when they were a human, only healing new injuries once they became a vampire.
While all vampires are capable of having offspring both through reproduction and turning, the birth-rate between mating vampires is so low that it is practically non-existent (even after many centuries, they may only have one or two children).
It is possible to use retroviral gene therapy, modified from the kind used to treat sickle-cell anemia, to cure someone who has been infected with the vampirism virus. While dangerous if done long after incubation, it is even possible to change a Turn-blood vampire back into a human. The retrovirus won't work on pure-bloods, however, because they were born with viral genes integrated into their DNA and replicating naturally (in contrast to an infected-vampire, in which foreign DNA was added to their pre-existing DNA).
The differences between Pure-Blood and Turn-Blood vampires results in a class system: Pure-Bloods tend to take positions of dominance, regarding themselves as superior and looking upon Turn-Bloods with contempt. Turn-Bloods are often lackeys, minions, or lieutenants. Turn-Blood reaction to this of affairs is diverse and varies between individuals, some accept the hierarchy as natural, while others resent Pure-bloods. Biologically speaking, there is no inherent difference between pure-bloods and turn-bloods, though socially, pure-bloods tend to be better-trained and more experienced.
Familiars are humans who willingly serve vampires. Familiars serve vampires in exchange for wealth, protection, and the possibility of one day being rewarded for their service by being turned into a vampire themselves. Familiars usually have tattoos of vampire glyphs located somewhere on their body (e.g. the back, neck, or base of the wrist), which is much like a cattle-brand. This glyph warns other vampires that if they attempt to feed or harm this human, they will have to answer to the vampire he/she serves. Familiars can function in daylight and may occupy crucial positions in human society which aid the vampires' infiltration, i.e. police officers, prison psychologists, powerful lawyers, teachers, etc.
Daywalkers are a type of vampire or half-vampire who can walk in the daylight without harm. Blade is a Daywalker due to his mother being bitten and turned while she was pregnant with him. As a result, he has all of their strengths, but none of their weaknesses. Drake is another Daywalker. As the first vampire, he is stronger than most of his descendants. Daywalkers still have the vampiric need for blood; Blade staves this off using injections of a special serum, but over time, his body builds up a tolerance to it and he has to develop a new one. Vampires have a much lower body heat temperature than humans, particularly apparent when viewed through a heat vision scanner, while a Daywalker can give off the normal heat signature of a human.
Daywalkers are exceedingly rare; Blade and Drake were the only two of their kind before Drake's death, leaving Blade to be the only Daywalker on Earth. Vampires are very jealous of Daywalkers and have tried to create more Daywalkers if it were easy to achieve.
On extremely rare occasions, something goes horribly wrong in the normal transition process from infected human to vampire. The result is a Revenant, a badly malformed zombie-like creature. The reason for this is not understood and it is unpredictable, though such “mistakes” occur so infrequently that vampires do not usually consider it when they try to turn a human. Pallid and cadaverous, a Revenant is covered in patches of dying flesh that are shedding and sloughing off. Revanants have an insatiable desire to eat anything, from animals, rodents, and corpses, to humans and even vampires. Revenants are still conscious and capable of complex speech, but their minds are clearly deranged. Vampires usually destroy Revenants when they occur.
Karen’s ex-boyfriend Curtis was infected by Quinn, but to the surprise of Quinn and Frost he turned into a Revenant. They attempted to feed Karen to him, but she bashed him in the head with a bone and was able to escape. His final fate was unknown, but it's likely he was destroyed after being found.
- See main article, "Reapers"
Reapers are an enhanced strain of genetically engineered vampires.