Saturday, February 2, 2008

Creatures: Sentient Infectious Undead

After a thousand years of experimentation with infectious undead, Nektos eventually achieved his original goal of creating an army of undead that are sentient. The first successful attempt were the wights, whose soul was retained but personality warped beyond recognition. Nektos continued to experiment, and eventually created araenid, deadwalkers, liches and his crowning achievement, vampires. The infections from sentient undead are harder to spread than those of nonsentient undead, but their abilities are far more potent, and activities far more dangerous due to their intelligence and presence of a soul. They are not fully antonymous however; Nektos has still infused his essence into the virus keeping his undead "alive," and this essence helps to guide and twist their behavior to suit his agenda.

While sentient undead have souls, and tend to have remarkable healing abilities, they are more vulnerable to being killed by dismemberment than soulless undead. A soul's grip on a body is tenuous at best, and even more fragile when that body is dead. Too much physical trauma of any kind can cause a sentient undead's soul to flee to the afterlife, and its body to become mindless and nearly impotent.

Araenid - An expert mimic, an araenid is disturbingly skilled at interacting with and blending into regular society. Distinctly spider-like, araenid are extreme mutations of their original form from when they were alive. Virtually any godtouched creature can become an araenid - the virus is not choosy in what kind of creature it infects. Regardless of what the araenid once was, it develops over a dozen sharp, pointed legs holding up a thickly armored carapace body. Their heads are on top of long stalks that resemble a human female's torso only superficially, and they have six insect arms coming out of their torso's "shoulders." What makes them able to blend into society is their almost supernatural ability to fold their many segmented legs into tight spaces. An araenid can squeeze itself into the skin of a victim, and its body secrets special fluids that help keep the dead skin looking "alive" - preventing decay and keeping it supple. A disguised araenid is quite difficult to tell from a living, breathing creature at first glance, and only experienced undead hunters or clairvoyants might notice the deception.

Araenid create more of their kind by literally swallowing a victim's head whole, keeping it alive despite decapitation with several oxygen-supplying organs. Once processed, the head is laid as an egg which will develop into a new araenid over a period of several years.

Deadwalkers - Deadwalkers are undead who spread their infection to the living by a kiss, something that might be easier for them to do if they weren't so horrifically ugly. The process of becoming a deadwalker causes the dying person to grow two feet taller, with much longer legs and arms. Fingers also grow longer, as well as fingernails. The skin on the face tightens and peels back, to the point where the deadwalker barely has any lips to speak of, and constantly has exposed teeth. Their eyes are solid black with no whites, pupils, or irises, and they tend to lose all of their hair. Their skin itself tans to a very leathery and dark-colored hue, superficially resembling tree bark. Deadwalkers are quite intelligent - if malicious - and tend to live in the trappings of nobility and riches. Amoral, money-hungry butlers have been known to manage the financial and social affairs of entire deadwalker families, who everyone else thinks are simply reclusive eccentrics. Deadwalkers are vulnerable to silver weapons, which can easily corrode their preserved skin, and they become violent at the sight of their own reflections.

Dunpeals - Born of a vampire mother and a living father, dunpeals are the only true biological offspring of an undead creature. Nektos designed vampire biology so well that such an offspring was possible, even though he himself never anticipated that possibility. Half alive, half dead, the hyperactive immune systems of newborns help to neutralize the vampiric virus - it can no longer be spread to others, and Nektos loses his influence over dunpeals. Dunpeals themselves have many of the vampire's unique skills, but at a reduced capacity. While a vampire gains a great deal of death channeling potential, a dunpeal's natural channeling talents are more limited than a vampire's. Direct sunlight also does not harm a dunpeal, though extended exposure can make them feel nautious and sicken them. Nektos, also a god of mischief and perversion, takes pleasure at the pain a dunpeal suffers through its half-living existence, and so does not mind that he has no dominion over them.

Liches - Wizards and necromancers with a penchant for immortality beware; Nektos may disguise himself as human and confront you with secret knowledge on how to turn yourself into a lich. It may seem like a good deal - your soul is encapsulated in an item that is difficult to destroy or find, and your body is controlled by remote. Even "killing" you will not kill you, and a new body will form from the corpse nearest to your soul at the time. It gives you countless lifetimes to perfect your craft and gain access to arcane knowledge the gods would rather you not have. It allows you to play politics with generations of kingdoms, buying your time and allowing your agenda to grow slowly and insidiously. However - once you are a lich, you are bound to Nektos. He can sever the contract at any time, for any reason, and banish your soul to the afterlife - where you become just another nobody. Some liches however are insane enough to consider even that a bonus - they serve Nektos as wizards, necromancers, and especially priests. The magical power of these liches is feared by all.

Vampires - Nektos' pride and joy, a vampire is an undead creature visually indistinguishable from a living member of their species. Notable features are that their irises become red, their claws or fingernails become harder, and their canine teeth become more pointed. Because they are so difficult to root out of society, there are a great deal of myths and legends about vampires that are only half-truths. Vampires have no weaknesses to garlic, holy symbols, wooden stakes, and they do have a reflection. Vampires can consume flesh other than blood for their nutrition, but prefer to drink blood for cultural reasons. Vampires can in fact cross over running water, and are only damaged by holy water due to its purifying effect.

A vampire's most famous weakness, their habit of bursting into flame when exposed to direct, natural sunlight, is a curse placed upon them by the goddess Reksha - she lost her heart once to a vampire, and forever cursed them to remain in the shadows. Nektos has been working on trying to lift the curse since, but only half-heartedly; he seems to be amused by it. However, the conditions of the curse are clear; vampires can be out and about during the day - they must simply shield themselves with a parasol, large hat, or hood, and prevent any skin from being exposed to the sun.

Asides from their ability to blend into society, vampires are especially dangerous because of their channeling potential. If a creature that is becoming a vampire has channeling potential already, his or her elemental affinity changes to death and they also gain abilities of mental domination, flight, disguise and limited teleportation. If the creature becoming a vampire has no channeling potential, they gain it, along with the aforementioned abilities. Unlike still-living death channelers, they do not become emaciated and do not begin to resemble a corpse due to its use.

Vampires spread their infection through direct blood exchange - no other method can reliably spread the virus. They often consider those they have turned into vampires their children, and dysfunctional immortal families can easily develop between vampire "generations." A vampire woman, as mentioned in the dunpeal description, can also give birth to biological offspring by mating with a living male, though fathering one can be a complicated affair. If a male vampire impregnates a living female, the child will be stillborn, and will raise as a normal wight once buried.

Wights - Wights were the original sentient undead, and their infection was the predecessor for the vampire breed of necrotic virus. Wights retain their soul but not their personality, and their infection potential is more potent than that of the other sentient undead. While a simple scratch will not turn someone into a wight, dying immediately after such a scratch almost certainly will. Wights have pale skin that sunburns easily, so they do not like to venture out into the light. They also are not civilized enough to actually want to bother putting on robes that might protect them and allow them to venture into the public domain. Along with their chalk white skin, they have long yellow claws, yellow eyes and yellow teeth, and their hair is normally black and wiry.

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