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Expedition: Vampires - Dead or Alive?

Tags: #Lore Expedition 
  • December 2

    Vampires. Sometimes referred to as ‘higher undead’. But here’s the thing, are they really dead? Can we really think about them as dead people, as corpses? Nothing is as simple as it seems in TES and lot of things we know about vampires stem from people’s beliefs, which are that vampires are blood-sucking corpses.

    Corpses. That implies that vampires have to die first to become what they are. But do they, really? I would say the lore actually kind of contradicts itself on this topic, or more precisely, the books contradict the information we get from characters in the games.

    Let’s look at Lamae Beolfag - more commonly known as Lamae Bal, the first vampire, a Daughter of Coldharbour.

    Tamriel was still young, and filled with danger and wondrous magick when Bal walked in the aspect of a man and took a virgin, Lamae Beolfag, from the Nedic Peoples. Savage and loveless, Bal profaned her body, and her screams became the Shrieking Winds, which still haunt certain winding fjords of Skyrim. Shedding a lone droplet of blood on her brow, Bal left Nirn, having sown his wrath.

    Violated and comatose, Lamae was found by nomads, and cared for. A fortnight hence, the nomad wyrd-woman enshrouded Lamae in pall for she had passed into death. In their way, the nomads built a bonfire to immolate the husk. That night, Lamae rose from her funeral pyre, and set upon the coven, still aflame. She ripped the throats of the women, ate the eyes of the children, and raped their men as cruelly as Bal had ravished her. - Opusculus Lamae Bal ta Mezzamortie

    This is what the common belief is, but when we take into account Lamae’s version...Well in actuality, she didn’t die at all. Her wounds were rapidly healing which scared the tribesmen so much that they tried to cremate her - and that, of course, didn’t go well.

    Another in-game dialogue that supports the theory that they don’t die comes from Valerica when she is met in Soul Cairn and asked about the prophecy and Daughters of Coldharbour.

    Tradition dictates the females be offered to Molag Bal on his summoning day. Few survive the ordeal. Those that do emerge as a pure-blooded vampire. We call such confluences the "Daughters of Coldharbour.”

    Right here I would like to point out that we are talking about the Pure-Bloods, the firsts. What if it’s different for the “half-breeds”? The Pure-Bloods spread the curse by infecting their victims with a disease, which, actually, has more than one strain. Over the course of 72 hours the disease is curable, but after that, it is not. In the games, we never actually see the main characters die either, yet some vampires awaken in coffins or tombs for the first time. I think the reason could easily mean that they could die in the sleep, or maybe the disease drastically changes something in them so that they don’t need to breathe or their hearts no longer beat - which sounds an awful lot like death to me.

    So where is the truth? Well, let’s move into the realm of theory now.

    What if it doesn’t matter, actually? The curse makes vampires unholy and immortal creatures who are very difficult to kill without silver or fire and turn to dust upon their death as supported by Greywyn’s Journal.

    Using their silver weapons, they pierced the heart of many of my brothers... The screams I could hear as they turned to dust still echo within my mind.

    But no matter where you look, there is the common theme of blood, of vampires feeding on it. Yes, the games might keep telling you that if you don’t drink blood, you become stronger and more ugly, but it also forgets to mention that if a vampire doesn’t drink blood, it goes crazy, feral.

    Entry 8: Two weeks. Two weeks have passed since Luktuv locked me in my quarters. Try as I might, I cannot free myself. I cannot breach the doors! If I don't feed soon, I feel I will go mad.

    Entry 9: Food blood blood blood blood I need it I need blood need blood - Journal of Lord Lovidicus

    And through the Lore, we see tidbits pointing in the direction of blood actually being a very powerful conduit for magic. It is used in dark rituals to empower spells, forge weapons of immense power as hinted in Morkuldin Forge in Wrothgar, so I don’t really see it as coincidence that Molag Bal used drop of his blood to transform Lamae as shown in Opusculus Lamae Bal. Blood is power.

     

    But where am I going with this? Alright, so vampires are considered undead, but what I’m trying to say is that blood, the reality of them drinking, allows them to mimic life. They are both dead and alive, more alive than dead as long as they drink blood, and more dead than alive when they don’t. Vampires are known to heal, remember? Can any other undead do that? To me it suggests that vampires might be undead, but certainly not dead, not corpses.

    Let’s look again at the Journal of Lord Lovidicus.

    Entry 4: Joy and exaltation! She is with child! My beloved Luktuv is carrying my child! The midwives predict a boy, and we have already settled on the name Agronak. In truth, I never realized such miracles were even possible, but the Divines have granted us their blessing, and so shall it be. I must wonder, of course, if my dear child will share in my Dark Gift. Only time will tell.

    Are you familiar with Agronak gro-Malog, the Grand Champion of Imperial City Arena? Son of an Orsimer female and - drums please - an Imperial vampire. So if vampires were truly dead, corpses, how can one sire a child? An imitation of life.

    And when we look at how vampirism is cured, there is actually no indication that vampires have to be “raised from dead” when cured. In Morrowind, the Nerevarine can be cured by doing a favour for Molag Bal. In Oblivion, the Champion can be cured by a potion made from garlic, Nightshade, Bloodgrass, the blood of an Argonian and the dust of a powerful vampire. In Skyrim, the Redguard conjurer, Fallion, can cure Dragonborn with a filled Black Soul Gem.

    So, everything seems to point in the direction that while vampires are undead and immortal, it also doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually dead.

     

  • Member
    December 2
    Excellent article! I should mention, though: in TESII: Daggerfall, you do actually die upon becoming a vampire, and awake in a tomb. Of course, much of the old lore has been retconned, but it's still interesting.
  • December 2

    Tenebrous said: Excellent article! I should mention, though: in TESII: Daggerfall, you do actually die upon becoming a vampire, and awake in a tomb. Of course, much of the old lore has been retconned, but it's still interesting.

    Yeah, I know, but trying to connect Daggerfall's lore and the rest of TES Games is very difficult thing. 

    But I have run into possible indication people might die, but it's foggy. 

    Days passed in the depths of Bal Ur and in my dying delirium I began to dream. At first it was divine. I felt the warm coastal breeze of Vivec City unblemished by the shadow of Baar Dau. Love and kindness surrounded me as I saw the radiant visage of Lord Vivec approaching. I felt forgiveness, and peace, but as Vivec grew closer he twisted into something truly putrid, something vile beyond words. I soon recognized the sight of Molag Bal's pitiless grin before the Daedric Prince's fangs plunged into my heart. In my fright, I woke, shivering and colder than death, but it was the absence of thunder in my chest that revealed my affliction. My disease. - Ongoing Journal of Galur Rithari

    Maybe it depends on the strain of the disease? 

     

  • December 2

    Well where is Daggerfall? Highrock? Could be that that's a High rock strain. 

    We also confirm with the above quote the "absence of thunder in my chest". Absence of a heartbeat perhaps? 

    Cool article, Lorc. Was happy to get a sneak peak. 

  • Member
    December 2

    The Long-Chapper said:

    Well where is Daggerfall? Highrock? Could be that that's a High rock strain. 

    We also confirm with the above quote the "absence of thunder in my chest". Absence of a heartbeat perhaps? 

    Cool article, Lorc. Was happy to get a sneak peak. 

     

    TESII actually took place across the entire Illiac Bay, which includes High Rock and Hammerfell. And yeah, I'm tempted to go with the "different strain" theory myself.

  • Member
    December 2

    I think it's also worth mentioning that in Skyrim vampires aren't affected by detect life, only detect dead. Also, when you are bitten by Harkon to become a vampire lord you seem to die, it could also be just going unconcious but when Serana bites you you stay conscious so Harkon could've killed you during the bite and if you survived it'd show your strength.

  • December 2

    Ebonslayer said:

    I think it's also worth mentioning that in Skyrim vampires aren't affected by detect life, only detect dead. Also, when you are bitten by Harkon to become a vampire lord you seem to die, it could also be just going unconcious but when Serana bites you you stay conscious so Harkon could've killed you during the bite and if you survived it'd show your strength.

    Well, he's not saying that they're not undead. He's arguing that they're not just corpses. There is a difference. As for the bites they give you, lol, I just think those are just Bethesda's general mechanics to hide what the the ceremony possibly, at least in my opinion, really entails. *nudge, nudge, wink, wink* Can't really be having that sort of thing in a video game. 

     

  • Member
    December 9

    Awesome, the idea that they can be undead but not corpses would explain a lot. If they never actually die, but the curse mimics the effects of death, and consuming blood mimics the effects of life, then functionally they are undead without dying, in a fashion. And if the curse is what gives the appearance of being dead, then removing the curse would remove the 'dead' part without having to do a full fledged ressurection! This certainly fits into what we know from lore and see in game, thanks for putting this together!

  • 4 hours ago

    The most famous vampire, Dracula, was stated to be a form of undead. Blood gave him power and gave him an extension of life. 

    I'm reminded of a quote from Hellsing Ultimate stated by Integra Hellsing, "Blood is the currency of the soul." Whenever Alucard, who is Dracula, drank someone's blood he'd gain their soul, trapping it within himself and thus gaining their power. 

    "Blood is the currency of the soul..." Makes you think about, if the victim dies from being drained of blood, if their soul and power is added to the vampire, as by drinking blood in TES lore the vampire appears younger.

  • Member
    4 hours ago

    Sweet writeup, LotF! I never really thought that much about it (I tend to hunt them and make them 100% dead in my playthroughs xD), but those are some compelling, well-supported thoughts. Excellent work as always ;D

    Forgot to mention this yesterday, but this article has graced the TV Twitter page :D