Are vampires territorial? This may seem an odd question but it is an important feature of vampire behaviour whether an individual vampire chooses to spend it’s life roaming the globe or would rather stay in one place. The more I consider this, the more I realise how perfectly the ecology of the Jossyverse vampires fits the predator model.
In the Jossyverse, many vampires have shown territorial behaviour: Spike has hung on in Sunnydale through hell and high water, Angel has become extremely possessive of LA, Sunshine’s gang clearly ‘owned’ the university campus (The Freshman), and the gang who killed Gunn’s sister had been hunting the same area for decades (War Zone). The Master was of course trapped, but we can at least say that his gang did not appear to have experienced any particular problems from remaining put, and the Master was trying to get free in order to rule the Hell-Mouth, not leave it. All in all, vampires seem to have a distinct liking for remaining in one place.
This does not seem surprising to me. Most predators are territorial: once they have got used to a district, know the best hunting tricks, and where the safe places and danger spots are, it is only rational to choose to remain there. After all, humans are predators and they are territorial. So we could expect vampires, as predators, to establish territories also, with all the associated behaviour. Within a territory though, the vampires might well have to move around a lot, as the food supply in one region became depleted and the risk of discovery too great. They would be very careful of the humans within their territory, trying to ensure the food was not overly alarmed or depleted since this would endanger them. They would also have to protect the food from attack by other vampires, so any wandering strangers would be dealt with summarily. But since each family’s territory would necessarily be very large, to provide enough food, guarding it effectively would be very difficult: the more efficiently a master vampire could protect his own territory the better his family would be likely to live. However the territory boundaries would probably be fairly well fixed; they would need to constantly defend against possible interlopers, but no creature chooses to engage in more risky fighting than is unavoidable, so at least with the neighbours a limited ‘understanding’ would be developed. This would explain, for example, why Sunshine’s gang had never strayed far enough from the University campus to have met the Slayer before. One can only wonder if vampires would indulge in some sort of territorial marking.
In the Jossyverse there are however other vampires who are clearly wanderers, roaming across the globe causing random destruction. Angelus and Darla seem to have criss-crossed Europe with appearances in Ireland, France, Vienna, and England, even turning up in North Africa at one stage, then after Angelus left them the remaining family went to China. And of course they all ultimately emigrated to the United States. But from the mid-nineteenth century until he was cursed, Angelus seems to show up nowhere but in England. What then is the difference?
I believe that vampires would be territorial by choice, but that by no means every vampire would be strong enough to obtain or keep a territory; and the different behaviour of the Aurelians over the centuries exemplifies this. For many predator species there is a period of each individuals life when they are itinerant, before they are old and strong enough to maintain a territory and breed, and this is exactly what we have seen in Angelus and Darla. They were itinerant for many decades, before finally settling in England where they proceeded to establish a breeding line with Drusilla and Spike.
I therefore believe that for the ‘typical’ vampire, as far as such a thing could be said to exist, there would be clear life stages. Firstly, fledglinghood, hopefully under the protection of a strong sire. Fledglings without such a sire would presumably suffer a very high death rate – not so much from the Slayer (only one girl, after all) but far more from other vampires whose territories they had infringed upon, as well as passing mobs and the like. Since I needed a word I have designated such sireless vampires
ferals. The sire who wanted his childer to survive would have to train them well to avoid this fate. Just because vampires are supposedly dead, evil, and soulless does not mean the laws of Natural Selection do not apply: vampires are creatures who can breed, therefore the ones who live to breed more successfully will come to dominate.
But a vampire sire would not be expecting to die himself. Unlike any creature with a fixed life-span, a vampire would not be looking for a direct heir in his childer, but only insurance of the survival of his bloodline in the event of his death. And while young fledglings could be dominated, the older a childe got the more likely he would be to become a threat to his own sire. Given that no vampire is likely to abdicate gracefully in favour of his childe, any childe who remained at home would have to continuously show, by great deference, that they were not a threat, sinking essentially to become just a slightly glorified minion. And this was exactly the position of Darla in Sunnydale. Darla is clearly a fairly weak individual, not really master material; from what we have seen she spent the vast majority of her vampire existence either in the company of Angelus or her own sire. (Remember that she was originally intending to return to the Master with Angelus, only Angelus antagonised the Master so they both left.) She was clearly of use to them, but one does have to question why she never struck out on her own. Drusilla could also be said to be in such a position of ‘eternal fledgling’ to Angelus. But what of the strong childe, one who had been bred to be a fit successor to his sire should he be needed? As soon as he became a threat might the master vampire not have to kill him?
No species that kills its own young can survive for long, so a solution to this problem must have developed. And the obvious solution for a sire would be to drive their older childer out to establish territories of their own. It is possible we have an example of this in Penn: tricked into leaving his sire’s side when he became too proficient in his own right. However it was done though, for a strong vampire just out of fledglinghood there would then be an itinerant period. Some would survive on the fringes of vampire society as fast moving rogue travellers, which is how Angelus seems to have passed sixty years or so, with Darla in tow. A single vampire, or better yet a pair, could survive like this providing they were intelligent and willing to move fast enough that no master with a territory could catch them. Any larger group would be too obvious in its hunting and be killed by the masters. For the itinerant vampires life would be exciting but dangerous. They might even scatter a few fledglings around. Without a territory the young sire would be unable to support such fledglings, and the majority would be very unlikely to survive, but a few might prove lucky and thus that particular vampire’s bloodline would grow. This last is the most probable model for how Angelus sired Penn.
But for most vampires just out of fledglinghood, the sensible choice would be to hire themselves out as minions to any master who would accept them. Why should a master require minions who are not his own childer? Simple: once a master had obtained control of a territory he would have a valuable asset that would enable him to maintain his own prospects and those of his young. However, it would continuously be under threat from outside vampires. To this end therefore he would need to take on minions to help him defend his territory, since his own childer must necessarily be weak and therefore of little assistance. In return the minions would get all the advantages of being in a stable territory. Any master would need to keep a strict eye on his minions to ensure they did not organise a coup, so he would not want any minion to get too strong and experienced. Minions would therefore be a group of young, but not too young, vampires, and he would probably ensure they had a relatively fast turn-over. This might explain why we have often seen a master vampire killing one of his minions: finding an excuse to get rid of a minion who was becoming too strong, and therefore developing into a potential threat, would be a common occurrence. A master would not wish to kill his own childer, but he need have no such compunction over his minions. Minions, consequently, would be careful to ensure they were not perceived by the master to be making any challenge, which would explain the excessive subservience we have frequently seen.
Whether as stray fledgling, itinerant rogue, or subservient minion, the death rate amongst young vampires would be high; for most vampires in fact eternal life would be a violent struggle for survival – nasty, brutish, and, rather surprisingly, short. But eventually those lucky few who survived would have the strength and experience to try to take over a territory, as a master vampire in their own right.