The shades always blink into the fog of war.
Yeah, don't fight them until you've explored at least 3/4 on the map.
Sounds like you're entering curse world a little early. I explored about half the map before I attacked anything. You're a vampire, exploration means very little to you so explore and find some items in shops and some power-ups on the ground. Even if your shop items suck you want to start converting stuff. Four or five layers of lifesteal will make a huge difference.
Last but not least, when attacking animated armors make sure you explore between each attack so they can heal
. If you attack an AA with 1 HP, you only steal 1 HP of damage. However, if you let it heal back up you can steal your maximum amount (just make sure you don't let it heal too much; just enough so that it still "dies" in one attack). Vampire is a little weird with how he interacts with AA's.
I can't even imagine how it's possible to get Feeling Parched doing this. lol
If one of those two remaining AA's had been a bandit, dragonspawn, or thrall I would have had unstoppable too!