Lasombra: A Camarilla Perspective
The Prince nudged aside the simpering kine that clung to his seat at the head of the mahogany table and raised his glass, the red liquid filling the gold-edged champagne flute catching and refracting the myriad lights form the Oxford crystal chandelier that illuminated the boardroom. "To success." He exhorted, a viper's smile curving his lips as his coterie raised their glasses in unison and echoed his salute. He brought the glass to his lips, savoring the bright coppery scent of the draught, but paused with the glass a scant inch from his mouth as a tight and bitter laugh cut through the blithe conversational tide of the salon. The Prince lowered his glass without drinking, his gaze clouding as he leaned forward to determine the source of the insult. "Does it now behoove the elders to mock the toasts of the Prince, fair Archon? Or is this a less ecumenical and perhaps more personal rebuff?" His words bore the cutting edge that had sliced cleanly through many debates in the past, and had often carved opponents down to the fumbling sycophants in the span of a few phrases.
The object of his courteously scathing inquiry merely repeated her acrimonious laugh, tapping her glass with a polished nail where it still sat untasted upon the table before her. The Archon paused through a few carefully measured seconds, waiting for the building confrontation to impinge itself on the collective awareness of the Ventrue coterie assembled at the table. It took less time for the collected Blue Bloods to reign in their exuberance and pay attention than she expected, but she knew they would hang on every word of the exchange. Challenging the Prince on even such a simple matter as a victory toast was an insult so brazen that none here would brave the recrimination. All the better, she mused.
When silence reigned among the assemblage, she waited still, wondering if the Prince would lower himself so far as to suffer repeating his own words to hasten an answer. He would not, she could see, but by the increasingly baleful glare that darkened his features she knew the effort to keep his tongue might boil his own blood if she did not alleviate his discomfiture.
"Not at all, my dear Prince." She responded finally, her own affording tone in direct counterpoint to the Prince's rapier-like enjoinder. "I am merely amused by the sanctimonious folly that allows this assembly to toast itself and its success so readily. Such arrogant blindness is a wonder to behold, I should even say breathtaking - were I still possessed of breath for the taking."
The Prince's eyes widened at the multiple insults so blatant in the Archon's riposte. Between them along the span of the antique table, the members of the coterie began to wish for any excuse they could make to be anywhere but here at this moment. Staid and elder Kindred shifted uncomfortably as the echoes of the Archon's words hung in the air and the Prince bristled. The Archon raised her hand languidly and smiled, fending off the Prince's unspoken response with that simple gesture. "My dear Prince, let me elaborate before your self-importance causes you to explode. For indeed there is an elaboration to my amusement, and this is not - in fact - merely an effort to denigrate you in the eyes of your followers." She hardly paused before continuing, not allowing the Prince or his group of Ventrue a response, nor even the time to think. "I simply find it laughable to toast success through the grandiosity of our own egos when the agent of our destruction is so readily at hand. You raise your glass to success, without thought of the engineered failure that looms so close at every turn.
I can see by your eyes, my exalted Prince, that the essence of my words is lost on you. I can see that your imagination fails when you try to envision a force or agency that could topple your seat of power, that could be the undoing of your elaborate schemes and redoubtable empire. Your esteemed faculties cannot grasp the concept of a power that could shake the foundation of the rightful rulers of the night, that could oppose the glorious Ventrue in their salons and boardrooms and harry them in their efforts like foxes before the hound.
But then, politicians are not known for their imagination, are they?
No, my esteemed audience, my dear Prince, I do not speak of the evils that you know. I do not refer to any of the powers that we have so rightly conquered and now rule. It is neither a mortal agency nor any of the exalted seven clans of our precious Camarilla that lurks like the wolf at the edge of our small fires, that howls in the night from far off and unseen pinnacles. The kine cannot match our perseverance or patience, and the other clans cannot hold the reigns of power against our efforts, though they may gain them from time to time. They simply do not have the acumen to thwart us from our hereditary place as the rulers of the darkness, at least not for long.
But, I warn you, there is one agency that not only can circumvent our best efforts, but can even meet our most grand and elaborate machinations turn for turn, and undo us with every engagement. I speak of the Lasombra, dear listeners, the unquestioned rulers of that darker side of our coin, the Sabbat.
I see some of you reacting with amusement to my revelation, obvious victims of our own propaganda machine. I warn you not to dismiss the Masters of Shadow, regardless of what rumors or tales you may have heard. Do not aggrandize the efforts of past elders to placate their childer with stories that reduced the terror that should be felt at the mention of the Dark Clan. Do not turn these hollow reassurances into gospel, and hold tight to this misconception as you sleep the dreamless sleep.
The Lasombra are our equals, our bane, our antichrist if you will, and a moment's indolence is all they need to pull our magnificence down around our ears.
I see that many of you are unconvinced still, even you, my esteemed Prince.
Consider this, then.
The Ventrue have walked the halls of power and politics since before the rise of the Roman Empire. There has rarely been a government of any kind that prospered in the western world that did not have the hands of the Ventrue expertly guiding its course. From the courts of Britain and France to the senates of the new world, the Ventrue have been there at every turn. We have turned the course of nations and written the history of the past millennium with our guidance. It is easy to imagine that nothing of the world as it is would exist without our influence.
But we are not alone, not now, and certainly not in centuries past. The Lasombra have been there as well, and in many ways the shape of the world we rule is far more sculpted by their desires than ours.
Oh, stop your blustering and self-important posturing. Only a fool refuses to hear a timely warning.
We may have dictated the course of kings and countries through politics and intrigues, but many of our greatest plans have fallen for naught through these agents of Shadow, for they control the second great power in the world, the eternal mirror to our agency of authority. The Lasombra have been rumored to make haven in the halls of the Holy Church of Rome. I tell you that this is no rumor, and if your education in history is of suitably unbiased grasp, you may begin to see my point.
No government or authority of the past millennium has been as ceaseless or as pervasive as the Church of the Catholics. Kings have come and gone, entire dynasties have arisen and been swept into history through the ages, yet the church has endured immutable throughout it all. The church is so all-intrusive even in this modern age that it is easily overlooked, much like our dark twins - the Lasombra - themselves. The church, and hence the Lasombra, has enjoyed such power and authority as to alter the face of world politics at its whim, and still does.
Consider the wars of the middle ages that so consumed the courts of England and France. We vied for power between these courts, using the kings and armies of the kine as pawns as we played out our competitions among ourselves. But it was not through our efforts that the balance of power shifted first this way, then that - though we are arrogant enough to believe so. The armies of the French overthrew superior forces through the agency of the church. They were sent an avenging angel in the form of a young girl, and rallying behind her banner, they drove the English from their shores. Then - when the church had what they wanted from her - she was sacrificed and made martyr, and the church withdrew from direct intervention for a time. The influence of the Lasombra disappearing back into the shadows from whence it sprang.
When our power in the British Isles was near total, and the English courts began to hold dominion over the policy and authority of all of Europe, the church rose again to weaken our position. Through the exhortation papal emissaries, the Kings of England were inspired to the Crusades - an effort that spanned decades and nearly bankrupted our power base, yet garnered untold wealth for the church in whose name these battles were fought.
Where we have fought and schemed and manipulated our way to gaining each square mile of influence, the missionaries of the church have opened entire continents for the conquering, and with them at every step have been the Lasombra. While palaces burn and castles are reduced to rubble, cathedrals stand untouched - proud icons of glory and righteousness. While we battle opposition at every turn from the other clans in our confederation, the Lasombra rule unmolested over the most ruthless, violent, and deadly amalgamation of Kindred ever seen.
You think yourself secure, my friends, here in the halls and avenues of the Americas. You think that the triumph of the body politic, so aptly represented by the democratic capitalism that holds regency here in this new world, is the bulwark that defends our aristocratic position as rightful rulers of this continent.
You cannot imagine that you could be threatened here in the greatest of your sanctuaries, and you imagine that any effort against you would by force of your entrenchment have to come from without.
But consider this. The Spanish conquered more of this new world than any other nation, and the missionaries of the church had penetrated into the farthest reaches of this continent long before any authoritative agency gained the tiniest foothold. Then, when their position was assured and their influence all-pervading, like a shadow they faded from view, allowing us - yes, allowing us - to spread our governments and politics as we wished.
I warn you that the power and influence of the Lasombra was firmly rooted across the length and breadth of the entire Americas, while we were still bickering over the disposition of the English and French colonies. While we dallied with civil wars and the division of a continent, the Lasombra settled themselves in every city, town, fort, mission, and outpost across the face of the Americas. It was a well-known practice throughout the frontier that one of the first permanent structures in any town was not a government facility - but a church.
When was the last time that any of you considered a church to be suitable haven?"
The Archon paused finally, noting that her words had left an uncomfortable air of disquiet among her listeners. Her enameled fingernails tapped the side of her glass, eliciting a soft ring that echoed through the silence. With a sharp flick of her fingers she tipped the glass, the cooling crimson contents spilling out across the oiled mahogany in a shockingly visceral pool. She dipped her fingertips in the spreading pool and lifted them, admiring the sticky redness with a deliberately absent air.
"Heed me well, my friends, my Prince. You are not secure, and you are not supreme. To believe either in the face of these truths is to risk becoming as nothing more than this spilled beverage."
She smiled wolfishly, her eyes locking with those of the Prince. "An unfortunate stain on someone else's table."
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