Knowing their reputation, I chose to bring help with me to this. For this, I brought my uncle Darwin, the Fianna Garou, to Tijuana. Here we sit in a bar of ill repute, watching as an act of a fire dancer amuses the crowd. From speaking to the others here, I see that the masses all have one thing in common. The previous night they had all ran across a mysterious woman, they had all been told to arrive here and see the show. For what purpose, neither I nor they could ascertain.
As the fire act ends, the lights and even the fires nearby seem to dim. With them comes the ever-rising drum beats like the thrumming of a great heart. As the drums meet a crescendo, the stage opens like a flower and up rises an exotic dancer who wields the shadows like silk to form the only clothes this predator wears. This way and that, she meets the gaze of the crowd one by one, the music driving them all to their feet in a hypnotic dance leading to death.
As my uncle places his hand on my shoulder and the world fades from our fleeing to the umbra, we witness the entire crowd opening their own throats to bleed for their crimson goddess. As one, they die. And as one, they will rise as a new army devoted to the whims of the Lasombra that made a dance into a call for war.
The Lasombra, oh, how this vampire clan differs from the ones we have touched on before. You see, these bad boys are to the Sabbat what the Toreador or such are to the Camarilla. They are one of the founding clans of the Sabbat, and indeed, many of the rituals and traditions of the Sabbat spring forth from them. That is a round about way of speaking that the Lasombra are a group ripe with nobility, and this is not the kind of nobility that the Silver Fangs of the Garou enjoy or the Ventrue portray. This is best personified in the statement of “Tis better to rule in Hell than to kneel in Heaven,” and with that mentality they not only acknowledge the Beast within all vampires, but they beat it into submission like a dog ready to be unleashed from the very gates of Hel.
Sounds fun, but let’s get into the flavor of these guys. To know them, one must hearken to many ways and people of times long past, to the ways and mannerisms of the cruel aristocracy of Spain, and onward to the death cults of Mexico and Latin America, to shadow deals, betrayals, and backs sprouting fresh blooms of daggers. By combining the new with the old, the smiling face hiding the danger beneath, you get a firm grasp of the ways of these vampires and how the Lasombra are one of the leaders of the Sabbat. Their ways, through silent observation and shadow dealings by ways of intimidating proxies, are but the first layer of this dark onion. For the monster that is hiding behind all the minions they have collected is more terrifying than every layer of defense combined. And the Lasombra typically revel in such knowledge.
Now these layers are many fold, as I have discussed, and one of the ones that most differentiates this clan from the previous ones is the way they “breed.” See, unlike selecting a specific target and converting them, the Lasombra very often will infect and change an entire group of people. Be this done zombie-apocalypse style, pseudo religious ritual, or in a blood-filled orgy culminating in the change, the result is the same either way. A massive increase in the Lasombra numbers through an army of “shovel heads,” shovel head being the term vampires use to denote a vampire that had been turned and abandoned to figure life out on their own. These orphans may not be individually strong, but they are numerous, and strength can be found in numbers, as the second generation would attest if they had survived the attack of their children. Mechanically speaking, a newly-turned vampire with their powers focused on combat could very well have the strength to end a much lower generation vampire’s long life. This is a lesson the Camarilla does well not to forget.
Now why would an army of mewling pups be worthy of worry from the older vampires? What makes these Lasombra vampires act as superior to others even without the teachings of the elders? Well, that is because more than many vampire clans, the Lasombra are built to win this war on not one but on all fronts. Their powers (or disciplines) hit on every field of a war: Cunning through stealth and shadows, power through strength, and leadership through commanding the masses. I have spoken of Dominance before, but I want to point out a way the Lasombra use it that the previous clans did not, namely through commanding people to be herded like sheep. Be this to the slaughter for food or for mass turnings to make an army, the uses for this are a clear-and-present danger to all that oppose the Lasombra. When you stop seeing humans as human, you see them as merely 7 billion tools walking, eating, and creating more tools for your use.
Next up of the powers of the Lasombra is Potence, and with this you can see why the army of foundlings is a scary thing. Imagine one night being alone surrounded by enemies, and the next night you rise with ten, twenty, or more confused savage children ready to be aimed by their creator, each one capable of bendiing steel with their bare hands and able to do similar damage to any vampire they come across. Mechanically speaking, their childe are capable (much like the Nosferatu, Brujah, or other possessors of this talent) of near automatically crippling or staking vampires if they are not taken as a very serious threat. This should not be ignored if you value your vitae.
The final and most terrifying discipline of the Lasombra is their unique mastery of shadows known as Obtenebration. This power is many fold, and in many ways is the very stuff of nightmares. It can be used to snuff out life and unlife alike, to hide your presence, and even to create shadowthings from some creative nightmare realm. With this power, you could rend an enemy with tentacles of shadow, drown them in darkness, imprison your foes, clone yourself with your own emancipated shadow, and even drag them back to the shadow realm itself. This power is the very stuff of nightmares in every sense of the word, and the most terrifying part is that it comes packaged with the other abilities I have mentioned above. Fear the darkness, my friend. Or as a particular villain played by Tom Hardy once said, “You think the darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man. By then it was nothing to me but blinding.”
This level of evil does not come without a price. There is an old saying, I believe it comes from Dante’s Inferno, but I may be wrong, that states, “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.” In this case, to become one with the shadows, the reflection of light some would say, the Lasombra cast off their own reflections. Be it a mirror, a pool of water, or anything else that would show them the face of their evil the Lasombra see when seeking their reflection. This may not seem like much, but it is a subtle way of detecting the Lasombra vampire for what they really are. And for this reason, they must take care lest their presence be revealed to those who could spell their doom during the daylight hours. No vampire who lives to see centuries forgets the days of Rome and when the kine rose up to slay the ancient undead who dwelled there.
For roleplay advice, I suggest looking to those who rule through terror and deed. A role that springs to mind is the recent portrayal of the Kingpin on Netflix’s Daredevil series. Also worth note is the gangsters of the Sopranos of HBO fame. These people rule through command, terror, and when necessary, deed. You would do well to practice an intimidating presence, and let silence be your ally. For it is far more frightening to know you can, but not when you will.
Well, that is the Lasombra in a nutshell, or should I say the shadow of them. I find them to be one of the more intimidating clans of vampires. Next week, we will be touching the true monsters of the vampire world, the Nosferatu. These twice-cursed bastards are going to be a royal pain to find. Wish me luck. I hope to see you there.
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