Lasombra: A Ventrue Perspective
We have four hours still until the train deposits us in Cordoba, and we have harried the fair passengers enough for one evening.
Yes, sit - and we will spend this remainder of our journey discussing some of the natives of Spain. I see the flicker of recognition in your eyes - have I lost my capability for subtlety? Yes, you are correct - I should not have expected the element of surprise. It is, in fact, the Lasombra of which I wish to speak.
I have overheard your young compatriots attempting to discuss these masters of shadow. I must admit I found it comical - for all their strutting and spouting, they might have looked like young Brujah to the uninformed eye. Surely you didn't listen to them, childe? Oh dear, it would appear you did. Perhaps I should then bless you with this bit of wisdom first: anyone that says you have nothing to fear from another Kindred - much less an entire clan of them - is either witless or deceitful. May I assume I have your confidence that perhaps I have more accurate information to impart than your naive friends? Yes, good; I would have been disappointed had you disagreed. After all, that is my blood in your veins, which you must do justice. And we couldn't expect you to do that without my sorely needed assistance, could we?
No? A most profound answer, childe, and a credit to your intelligence. You have excelled at the first test of dealing with the shadow lords - never allow another's arrogance to goad you into an unfavorable position. Arrogance is but one of the many faculties the Lasombra command with unyielding precision, and more than one of our kind has blindly fallen prey to it. You are off to a most advantageous beginning.
The arrogance of the Lasombra can be quite grating, but it is not wholly undeserved. Your future stretches before you, vast and unending if you are cautious. No doubt you will run afoul of a shadow wielder at some point in your career, and when you do you will face one of the most formidable adversaries you are ever likely to encounter.
We have been called politicians, nobility, aristocrats - sometimes even by ourselves. The other clans favor us with the moniker Blue Bloods, and despite the contempt they are so fond of uttering this phrase with it only reaffirms that they understand who is the authority. Know this then - if we are politicians and aristocrats, the Lasombra are kings and queens. To this day I suspect that your great, great grandsire fostered the ideals of democracy in the new world to deny the Lasombra a monarchical foothold there, but if this was so it was a secret he took to the grave with him. But I digress from the topic at hand.
I can tell you that the mantle of power is a heavy one - it is a great task to lead any vampire beyond yourself. The Ventrue have held fast to the reigns of the Camarilla since it's inception, and saw fit to tighten their grasp just over two centuries ago when immediate titles of power were adopted. Ventrue who rule cities do so at great peril, as the only way to truly advance in our society is at the expense of another. Can you imagine what such a Prince must be like? What it would take to sustain such a coveted position of power and sphere of influence? Yes, I can see that you are not without imagination. Imagine then our shadowy counterparts. They sit atop a Darwinian society as a mountain sits atop flat land. Do you begin to see the mettle this requires? What one must be capable of to rule the unruly; to master the unmasterable? Ah - I see that you do. Congratulations - you have begun to acquire a minute inkling of what these Kindred can be capable of. For all our preening and self aggrandizement, I can assure you that no Ventrue who underestimates these dark opponents enjoys a successful career for long.
Better than us? The question is forgivable, of course. I understand that I make them out to be quite frightening. In truth, they can be. But alas, not better than us. Simply more equipped than any other to meet us on the fields we master. Better than you, however - perhaps. While it is the purest and most noble of blood that will allow you to enjoy eternity, you cannot think that will ever be enough to mark you as infallible or indestructible. I attempt to impart the knowledge that there is no creature on earth who will capitalize on your fallibility or destructibility like the Lasombra - save perhaps another Ventrue.
The Lasombra are masters of intrigue and policy, as we are. Fortunately they seem to turn as much of their skillful manipulation inward as they do out. For the purposes of this exercise you may view the tenuous rivalry between the Ventrue and the Lasombra as a game of chess, in which there are as many black pawns as their are white. The color of the pawns, however, never has anything to do with how many will remain when the final score is tallied. It is always the skill of the chess player that determines this.
Like the shadows they command, the Lasombra tend to be subtle. If one of them appears blatant or obvious, you can be assured that is no more than a tactic to divert attention from the truth of their plans. You can also be fairly secure in the knowledge that if a Lasombra appears to be retreating, it is because reinforcements lay on the proverbial other side of the ridge.
As we have entrenched ourselves firmly in the hearts and guts of government and business, so have the shadow walkers buried themselves in the Church. They are the only reason we do not enjoy the same iron grip on religion that we do on politics and finance, and the reason we are ever watchful of the arena of government. Though most of our elders would be loathe to admit such things in a public forum, this struggle is often a war of attrition from both perspectives. To this day we both maintain our powerbases, with either making little progress with the opposing side.
Yes, quite an astute observation childe. Each and every time that church and state have clashed, it is the realization of the subtle but constant war between our two clans. You learn quickly - I am quite pleased.
The ministry of politics, however, is not the only front on which the Lasombra are designed to fight. The mistaken perception of the clan as brooding poltroons in black robes is precisely that - mistaken. I have repetitively inferred the dominion over shadow these Kindred possess, and I do hope you do not think I suggest them to be parlor magicians who favor tricks of the light. I can tell you that this is perhaps the most frightening aspect of these cousins, the power to call forth the darkness into palpable form to do their insidious bidding. You look unimpressed; perhaps I fail in my artistic depiction. I will endeavor to make myself clearer.
By virtue of your blood, you are more durable than many Kindred. What would fell some of night's children could be but annoyance to you. This is a great advantage when driven to that last resort of physical confrontation, especially when you do not have the luxury of flight. A crushing blow can beget little more than a passing bruise. But what would your durability count for if you could not see your opponent? If you were swaddled in a shroud of darkness so complete that even sound does not reach you there? What would your fortitude serve then, if not only to provide the whipping boy with a bit more longevity? Perhaps you could fumble your way to victory, or at least a stalemate. That is, of course, if you were fighting a real opponent at all - for beyond their ability to disorient you with darkness lies the ability to command shadow like puppets. These puppets can be as brutal an attacker as any Kindred opponent, and unlike other battles your transgressors need not expend themselves in the fight as you must. Yes, I see my recountal begins to meet the challenge. Perhaps now you begin to understand. As if this mastery of shadow is not enough, I have yet to meet a Lasombra that does not seem to be possessed of superior strength.
Relax childe. Despite your best efforts I have detected the slight quiver of your knee, but I can say with reasonable certainty that there are none of these dubious villains in our compartment. Yes, reasonable certainty - for I have watched these creatures coalesce from the very stuff they command, undetected until the moment they chose to be otherwise.
Have you enjoyed your lesson, childe? Come, gather your things. I believe I see Cordoba approaching, and I trust you are most anxious to explore the night in Spain.
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