In the BDB Universe, Sympaths (derogatorily referred to by Vampires and Shadows as 'sin-eaters') are an off-shoot race of the Vampires. Their exact divergence from the Vampires (the when, where, and how of it) has not yet been revealed in the canon text, but it is clear that modern era Sympaths share very little in common with modern era Vampires or Shadows. Whether or not they can successfully breed with modern era Vampires is unknown in the text.
In the modern era, they appear to have been intentionally separated from humans, Shadows, and Vampires by a previous Vampire King (the who and why of that is also not revealed in the canon text), although little is known about 'civilian' vampires' habits in relation to humans.
In a general sense vampires are more animalistic than humans, with much stronger instincts and a far greater likelihood of following their instincts over their heads.
Creation & Relations
How the Sympaths first came into existence is unknown in the canon text. They do not appear to worship the Scribe Virgin or The Omega or The Creator, however.
In terms of where they fit on the cosmic life scale:
- Sympaths (The Princess is an example)
- Half-Breeds (hominid-like beings that are the product of breeding between Sympaths and other mortal beings)
- Vampire-Sympath (Rehvenge and Xhex are examples)
The Sympaths are reviled by both the Vampires and the Shadows, freakish in both form (the one example we see of this in canon text is The Princess, who had six fingers and three knuckles on each hand, and had a discomforting affection for arachnids) and in power (they are psychics, who love to play mental games and can drive a person mad).
In the BDB universe, Sympaths are somewhat of an extant genera of hominid, like the Vampires (what percentage, however, is unknown). They have many similar characteristics to Vampires, however: they generate some body heat (indicating some mammalian genetics, although it is stated in the canon text that The Princess' skin was on the cooler side of the temperature gauge), walk on two legs, have the same reproductive organs as humans, have a higher functioning brain and the ability for speech, etc.
Sympaths, however, seemed to have evolved some interesting physical traits that they do not share with Vampires, Shadows, or human beings. As described above, the one full-blood Sympath we do know intimately is The Princess. She is described as having 'freakish' hands, with six fingers on each hand and three knuckles on each finger. She also appears to have an extremely high tolerance for poison, as she has so much in her system, she exudes it from her pores (whether this is inbred into her or something she has done to herself to raise her own tolerance-levels against poison is unknown).
However, they would be considered more superior than humans in terms of psychic ability. The one example we see of this in canon text is The Princess, who had six fingers and three knuckles on each hand, and had a discomforting affiliation for arachnids) their sexual response to a lover or to a female in her breeding time is more passionate than a dozen normal human sex sessions combined (they are easily stimulated and multi-orgasmic), and their internal organ function is far superior to that of human beings. They also have a vastly expanded longevity (~1,000 years—more than ten times that of humans).
Their weaknesses, however, allow the species to be kept in check, per the pact The Scribe Virgin made with The Creator: sunlight is deadly to vampires (so no daylight movement), they cannot subsist for long without blood from one of their own species (the opposite gender to themselves), and their reproduction rate is very slow (once every ten years or thereabouts) and extremely dangerous to females (long gestation periods combined with bad odds for conceiving and carrying to term, and a high mortality rate for birthing females and stillbirths).
Vampire bodies are, on average, considered tall. Most males stand at or around six feet, and most females are close to that six foot mark as well. As a result of breeding powerful characteristics over the generations, the warrior classes of vampires all tend to be giants, even among the race (Wrath tops off at 6'9", Butch and John Matthew at 6'8", Xcor at 6'6", etc.), and they are all thickly muscled. However this is not in such freakish proportions that they appear alien.
Vampires in the BDB series, as is expected of the genre, have fangs. They are retractable to an extent, appearing as oversized insicors when fully contracted, at full extention they prevent the mouth being fully closed. They use their fangs to scare off others (flashing them and hissing), to puncture through another person's skin to get to the nutritious blood underneath, sometimes to fight with (biting and tearing their enemies up with their fangs), and also sometimes as a convenient way to get clothing out of the way (many of the males like to bite through bra straps to get to what is underneath as fast as possible, for instance).
Vampires are stronger and faster than the other species mentioned in the BDB universe (humans, sympaths, lessers, and shadows being the other four; only their cousins, the shadows, come close to matching them when it comes to physical strength and fitness). Members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood have been known to be able to bench 500 lbs. when lifting weights and to run five-minute miles on the treadmill without breaking a sweat. Even the non-warrior class and the females of the species seem capable of benching an average human's weight with ease, as evidenced by Marissa's show of strength when handling Butch in Lover Revealed.
Physical Immunity Edit
Vampires are impervious to getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), cancer, the common cold, and most other human illnesses. This amazing immunity seems to be a 'gift' their deity, The Scribe Virgin, magically imbued in the species when she created it, because there is no physiological explanation for how this could happen otherwise.
Vampires are not impervious to sustaining bodily damage, however, and can die from bleeding out, massive systemic trauma, organ failure, food starvation, dehydration, blood starvation, burning, freezing, poisoning, sepsis, brain damage, and complications resulting from the birthing process.
Vampires can also get dementia/Alzheimer's (Ehlena's father suffered it in Lover Avenged), a vampiric form of Parkinson's disease (Rehvenge lied to Ehlena and claimed to be suffering from this known disease inLover Avenged), and suffer from mental illness (Marissa and Mary deal with PTSD, manic depression, and those with suicidal thoughts at Safe House).
Life Stages Edit
Vampires have three stages of life: pre-transition (from birth until they undergo their adult transition around their young-to-mid twenties), breeding adult (from the age of their adult transition until approximately 700 years old), menopause and old age (when they are no longer able to breed until death).
Vampires, while the do require blood, must also eat on a regular basis much the same as humans. Vampires do not tend to call meals 'breakfast', 'lunch' and 'dinner', but rather (more literally) 'First Meal' and 'Last Meal'. It is unclear as to what they call their verson of lunch, as it is rarely mentioned in the series.
There has been no mention of vegetarian or vegan vampires in the series.
Vampires need to drink blood of the opposite sex to sustain themselves, and while they can survive on human blood it is very weak and forces the vampire to drink far more frequently. Almost all vampires feed off other vampires.
During blood exchange, both parties can share emotions or induce an emotion in the other party. Vampires can track those who have taken blood from them. Drinking blood and sex are closely related to vampires.
Sexuality and FertilityEdit
Female vampires are only fertile (that is, they go into estrous) once every ten years, starting aporoximately five years after their transtition, at the age of their sexual maturity (age 25), and presumably ending with the female vampire equivalent of menopause or perhaps even death (J.K. Ward has not yet definitively answered in the series when the fertile period stops for vampires). The fertile period is called a 'needing'.
A needing lasts approximately sixteen to twenty-four hours. During a needing, the female in heat will emit into the air strong pheromones to attract a mate of the opposite sex to fulfill the biologic need to reproduce the species. These pheromones radiate outward from the female vampire's womb in the form of an explosive energy blast. Each 'detonation' is extremely painful to the female (the impression given in the novel canon is that the pain experienced by the female vampire is approximately a level 9 or 10 on the Numeric Pain Scale, which is the equivlant of advanced labor contractions in humans). The total circumference of the pheromonal blast wave is unknown, but appears to be at least twenty-five to fifty meters, as it tends to be felt all across the Brotherhood's mansion. The pheromone blast has an immediate and powerful effect on all males (human, half-sympath, half-vampire, shadow, and fully-blooded vampire alike - no matter their mate-bonded status) caught within its vicinity: they become instantly and energetically primed for sexual intercourse. Females in the vicinity are affected as well, but in a different manner: like female humans aligning their menses with each other when in close contact for long periods of time, female Vampires' needings may be similarly triggered when in close contact with a female Vampire who goes into her needing, regardless of how many years she has left before going into her normal needing cycle.
Female vampires of the Chosen do not go into a needing cycle while living in the Scribe Virgin's sanctuary. Once they cross into the Earth realm, however, their natural biologic cycle (which has been arrested, thanks to the magic of the Scribe Virgin) becomes active. Too much time in the Earth realm without frequent returns to the Scribe Virgin's sanctuary causes a Chosen to go into her needing. The only time a Chosen may become pregnant while in the Scribe Virgin's sanctuary is, presumably, when the Primale mates her in the Scribe Virgin's temple. It is assumed the magic of the Scribe Virgin makes the conception possible, despite the lack of a needing by the Chosen.
According to novel canon, there are three safe, moral methods for dealing with a female in her needing; leaving the vicinity of the female in her needing, using drugs to sedate the female in her needing until the needing has passed (to prevent her suffering, as well as the suffering of others), or to have a male "service" her (read: have sex with her). If a female vampire chooses not to use drug cocktails to render herself unconscious during the needing, and do not wish to be serviced, she will suffer the painful effects of the needing naturally until the needing passes.
Conception during the needing is not guaranteed. However, if a female vampire does conceive and manage to carry to term (a rarity, as the entire pregnancy is tenuous, at best, and many end in spontaneous abortion by the female's body), the pregnancy lasts 18 months, rather than the typical 9 months of female humans.
Birth is incredibly dangerous to female vampires, and many die in the effort (as was the case with Lash's biologic mother), or the mother's health may never again be fully rejuvenated after the birth, regardless of whether the child is born healthy or is stillborn.
Novel canon does not address the use or accessibility of birth control options (aside from abstinence) for vampire females. Indeed, the entire race seems to hold the issue of conception and pregnancy to be almost sacred, and females who do become pregnant are often revered and cared for with great attentiveness by all of the species. Preventing a pregnancy from naturally occurring seems to be almost anathema to many of them, especially the more conservative faction. Further, there seems to be a social struggle currently in the novels regarding the property rights of mates and children, with the conservatives insisting that the female vampire and her unborn baby belong solely to their male mate (and therefore no medical decisions regarding a pregnancy, including preventing one, may be made without the male's consent, as seen in Lover At Last, with Layla at Haver's clinic). J.R. Ward has yet to address this issue in a definitive manner in novel canon, although it is clear there is a definitive lean towards a more liberal, women-empowering stance on the issue (again, as seen by Layla's actions, and the reactions to it by Phury and Qhuinn in Lover At Last).
Male vampires are always fertile. They can occasionally impregnate human females (as in the case of Elizabeth Randall, who is Darius' daughter, and in the cases of both Brian "Butch" O'Neal and Manuel Manello, whose father was a vampire, but whose mothers were both human). There has been no mention of female vampires being impregnated by human males in the series to date.
There are both hetrosexual and homosexual vampires in the series, as well as bisexual vampires (Vishous, Qhuinn, and Blay have all had partners from both sexes). However all vampires, regardless of sexual orientation must drink from the opposite sex, per their biology. Male homosexual vampires and male heterosexual vampires bonded to human females typically find a willing female vampire to drink from on a regular basis to fulfill their needs.
- NOTE: In Lover Reborn, Autumn becomes an exception to the normal rules of the needing. She experiences a needing period about a year after leaving the Scribe Virgin's sanctuary and moving into the Brotherhood's mansion. However, at that time, Autumn was not an actual living being, per se, but more a corporeal spirit (as she was trapped between the Fade and the Earth realm, unable to pass on due to her suicide and her need to resolve her spiritual conflict). J.R. Ward has not yet explained how an entity who was, by definition, one of the undead could be triggered to experience reproduction - a biologic function that only the living experience.
Depending upon the purity of their vampire blood, some vampires are allergic to sunlight. Full-breed vampires and those turned from human to vampire seem to be unable to tolerate sunlight, while genetic half-breeds seem quite capable of going out in sunlight without damage.
FULL-BLOOD VAMPIRE EFFECTS: Wrath explains in Dark Lover that vampires get third-degree burns when exposed just a bit to sunlight, and prolonged exposure can lead to instantaneous combustion and disintegration (flash fire that turns them to ash). We see this is true when Rhage in Lover Eternal receives second and third-degree burns on his body after accidentally falling asleep in Mary's apartment while the window shades were open. When the dawn's light touched him, he was burned and rushed for cover. We see this again, in a flashback scene in Lover Enshrined, when The Omega impregnates a nameless female vampire and leaves her dead body exposed to the sun (she died giving birth to Lash, The Omega's son). The female vampire's body spontaneously combusts as the sunlight touches it, and the fire eventually consumes the house, eradicating all traces of her ever having been there and her death.
HALF-BREED EFFECTS: In Dark Lover, Beth (who is a genetic half-breed as her father is a full-blood vampire and her mother a full-blood human), goes through the vampire transition upon her 25th year of life. When she later steps into the sunlight to test whether she's received any of the vampire species' detriments or lost her human heritage, she discovers she can go into the sunlight without sustaining any damage—only her eyes seem mildly affected by the sun's brightness.
'TURNED' VAMPIRE EFFECTS: In Lover Revealed, Brian "Butch" O'Neal is turned from a human into vampire when his human blood is emptied from his body and replaced by vampire blood. When he experiments with sunlight after the change, Butch finds he cannot stand the sun's light any longer. He reacts to it the same as any other full-blood vampire. On the flip side, in Lover Enshrined, it is discovered that Lash is half-vampire and half-lesser (he is the son of The Omega and an unknown female vampire). When his vampire body is killed by Qhuinn in an altercation, The Omega spirits his son away to be 'reborn' as a lesser. He replaces Lash's blood with his own dark essence and kick-starts Lash's heart. When Lash comes back to life, he is able to go out into the sunlight without sustaining damage, just as lessers do.
Vampires are not allergic to garlic or religious objects of any faith. That is, as they say, superstitious nonsense.
Vampires have a kind of telekinetic minor control over their physical surroundings. They can ignite and extinguish candles, and lock and unlock doors.
In an extreme emotional state, Wrath (the only remaining, completely pure-blood vampire on the planet) has generated a type of cold wind that he can wield telepathically to move objects around.