The Vorgýrim (pronounced “VOR’grim”) are a militant Asiatic race dated to at least 9,000 BCE and noted for an intense worship of now-extinct sabretoothed cats, similar to the Amerindians reverence for the bison or the Norse for the cave bear. Little is known of their early history, but it is possible they were depicted on ancient Mesopotamian potsherds. They are likely referenced in several lines from an untitled manuscript fragment dating from the Ch’in Dynasty and describing the “Vompyr” people, who raided the western fringes of what is now Tibet and Outer Mongolia, stealing horses and children. The Ch’in reported consistently, if unbelievably, that both were drained of blood and eaten.
The first verifiable records don’t appear until several centuries after the death of Christ, when the Vorgýrim encountered literate Byzantine missionaries sent to the wastes beyond the Caspian Sea to recruit potential allies—meaning cheap mercenaries who could be purchased with lacquer trinkets—to aid the struggle against the advancing Mohammedans. However, the Greek-speaking Christians couldn’t pronounce "Vorgýrim" and instead gave them to history as the “wampyr,” a bastardization of their Chinese name.
Vorgýrim are large with a characteristically bulky body mass, similar to a Neaderthal, and a mean height of 6'2" in men and 5'10" in women. Vorgýrim culture is patriarchal but matrilineal with family names and legacies traced through the mother's ancestry. Vorgýrim are openly hostile to outsiders, heavily armed, and travel in small hunting parties like the great cats whose form they so admire.
Although no Vorgýrim has submitted to testing, it is likely that millennia of genetic isolation has resulted in widespread porphyria, a congenital disorder, rare outside their ranks, that inhibits the production of iron-binding heme resulting in the buildup of porphyrins, the metabolic precursors of heme, in the soft tissues, notably the skin. Porphyrins are photoreactive across a wide spectrum, which gives them their intense coloration. (It is this same effect that gives heme, and therefore blood, its deep red color.) Porphyrins in the dermis are activated upon exposure to the sun’s high-energy photons, resulting in the production of free radicals, tissue destruction, and subsequent pain.
Not surprisingly, the Vorgýrim are predominantly nocturnal, which prevented them from following their stone-age cohorts into settled agriculture and so preserved their primitive, often warlike customs. In the modern era, Vorgýrim are proficient killers and extortionists organized into mafia-like clans each serving a single, largely autonomous warlord paying nominal tribute to the Supremacy, a council of high elders led by a hereditary queen. Since they have existed since before the invention of the nation-state, Vorgýrim are widely dispersed and can claim no homeland. They are File #1844 on the United Nations Index of Stateless Peoples.
More significant than their photosensitivity, however, is the Vorgýrim's lack of metabolic hemoglobin, which must be supplanted regularly in the diet or else result in death by acute anemia. Understandably, blood lust is strong and the Vorgýrim's entire social structure revolves around the acquisition and trade in meatstuffs—including, presumably, human trafficking.
Meet the hunting party:
Illustrations by Shugmonkey.