The Lasombra exist for their own success, fighting for personal victories rather than solely for a crown to wear or a throne to sit upon. They believe that might makes right, and are willing to sacrifice anything to achieve their goals. A clan that uses spirituality as a tool rather than seeking honest enlightenment, their fickle loyalties are currently highlighted by half their clan's defection from the Sabbat.
Several thousand years ago, a tribe of proto-Maasai people were ordered by a pale spirit to produce a child for him. This child was trained to lead by having every member of the tribe obey him, and he was trained to be loyal by extensive gifts and rewards from the Lasombra Antediluvian. The experiment failed, and Lasombra punished the tribe by wiping out half of its population. Before rerunning the experiment, Lasombra was visited by his child's playmate, Ontai. This shaman-in-training offered his life to Lasombra – in life, death, and beyond, with no price asked. Lasombra, disturbed by the offer and Ontai's already impeccable honor, tested the shaman's resolve by demanding he slaughter his tribe. Ontai obeyed, and a shaken Lasombra called off the execution and embraced Ontai, renaming him Montano, and bringing him to the Mediterranean. Thereafter, Lasombra was always uncertain whether his childe's unswerving honor had gotten the better of him.
In the second millennium B.C., the so-called "Sea Peoples" ravaged all the settled lands around the Mediterranean. The Hyksos even ruled Egypt for two successive dynasties. For a while, the Sea Peoples dominated all commerce in the Mediterranean. Nobody sailed without paying tribute to them or courting destruction. Indeed, around the turn of the millennium, the Sea Peoples played a major part in smashing the Bronze Age civilizations in and around Greece, ushering in an era that more landbound historians like to call a "dark age."
From the very beginning, the Lasombra have been tied to the sea. Sicily, where Lasombra had his lair, was the center of the Clan, from which they inserted themselves into various seafaring cultures that arose. It is said that, after the eruption of Thera, the Lasombra Antediluvian began various lengthy travels, leaving his progeny free to discover the world around them. Reveling in piracy and the freedom of the sea, most Lasombra fought against both Greeks and Romans, refusing to accept the feeding rights of any Cainite overlords. Others traveled to Iberia and the lands of the Roman Republic. Some particular adventurous even traveled so far as China, where their broods still survive secluded and hidden away from the wrathful Cathayans. Together with the Ventrue and Malkavians, the Lasombra clan ruled over the Roman Empire until it dissolved. While the Ventrue left for the north and the Malkavians are seen with suspicion and fear now, the Lasombra remained.
- Motto: Morte Ascendō (Latin: "In Death, I Rise")
In medieval times, the Lasombra were centered around the Mediterranean in the feudal realm of the Sea of Shadows as one of the High Clans, headed by their Antediluvian himself. The Lasombra were heavily involved with the religious institutions of this age, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, and with Islam, leading to an internal conflict between the two factions within the Clan that resulted in the Shadow Reconquista in Spain, where both sides battled against each other for control over the peninsula. Most Lasombra had strong ties to the clerics and nobility and were able to utilize them to their own ends.
The Anarch Revolt
According to clan legend, [Lasombra]'s last childe, Gratiano de Veronese, was the one who slew the Antediluvian with the aid of a coterie of Assamites, instigating the Anarch Revolt and the resulting chaos (although many Tzimisce challenge that claim). Many Lasombra flocked behind Gratiano, hoping to overthrow their scheming sires and gain their power. Most among them refused the Convention of Thorns, seeing it as submission to the despised Ventrue and the kine without even proper negotiations.
In the early renaissance, the Lasombra had just become the leaders of the Sabbat. Their political and commercial power had weakened and they had turned to more brutal practices, such as piracy, even shifting their focus from the dwindling Spanish kingdoms to Dutch pirates and opportunities in the New World. Their main focuses have been the eradication of the Camarilla, particularly their Lasombra antitribu clansmen.
During this time the influence of the Church upon people's lives declined. As a result, Lasombra influence became more indirect as the years progressed. Like many other clans, the Lasombra began to influence the bourgeoisie, from which most of the world's finances now flowed. Unlike other Clans who had previously infested religious organizations, the Lasombra did not turn away from churches – indeed, the Lasombra are infamous even in the modern nights for their powerful grasp in religious circles, particularly the Catholic Church.
During this Age, many Lasombra sat down to codify the ancient Roads and clan-specific traditions into proper Paths of Enlightenment to create substitutes to Humanity within the Black Monastery. In the New World, various Sabbat Civil Wars threatened the rule of the Clan over the Sabbat and forced them to restructure the sect several times. The Purchase Pact defined the enemies of the sect to end various instances of infighting (Antediluvian catspaws, Infernalists and Camarilla pawns) while the revised version of the Code of Milan formalized a more structured approach to intern control. In both cases, the Clan were heavily involved in these revisions.
Whether they approve or not, Clan Lasombra has changed with the times. Where once the elitist ideals saw that only those of certain lineages, ethnicities or religions were Embraced, the Clan now recruits from all walks of life. Financial influence is now increasingly important to them due to the establishment of the global economy, and the Lasombra are the clan mainly responsible for bankrolling much of the Sabbat's operations in modern nights.
The Lasombra still hunt their hated antitribu, although fewer and fewer exist each night. The fervour with which their brothers are hunted has brought about a change of its own – those antitribu surviving are generally the oldest and wiliest Keepers to still walk the earth.
Perhaps most embarrassing for the Clan was the defection of Gian Galeazzo Visconti. A former Cardinal, he was a signatory on the Code of Milan, one of the Sabbat's most important documents. At the end of the 20th century, Giangaleazzo gathered all of Milan's Cainites to his castle. From the balcony of his haven, he announced that he would no longer be a part of the Sabbat. With that, he tore up the original Code of Milan and sealed the courtyard. Burning his former sect mates to death, he announced himself Prince of Milan and a member of the Camarilla. As a result, Gian Galeazzo is particularly hated throughout the Clan, but too well supported by the surrounding Italian Camarilla to destroy.
After the rise of the Second Inquisition, and the start of the Gehenna Crusade in the Middle East, the Amici Noctis reached out to trusted Keepers, those with reputations for clan over sect loyalty, and the Friends arranged diplomatic missions by these same Keepers to the Anarchs and the Camarilla. At first these representatives made solitary offerings of fealty to the Ivory Tower, but soon enough they began petitioning for the entry of the entire clan. Around half the Lasombra will remain in the Sabbat, but will lack central authority or direction as the Amici Noctis joins the Ivory Tower. Those Lasombra who held titles of Archbishop in the Sabbat, now attempt to hold similar positions in the Camarilla, bringing with them their manipulation of the Catholic Church and services to fill the hole left by the Brujah and Gangrel defections to the Anarchs. Any Lasombra ranked Cardinals are put to the torch as a gesture of good faith.
|“||Eventually, Sierra asks “What would it take? Just name the price for admitting the Magisters as a recognized Camarilla clan in your city and I’ll have it done.” Jackson’s reply comes with a laugh. “I don’t know, girl. How about you just deliver all your Sabbat elders with stakes through their hearts?” Van Burrace pauses only briefly before responding. “It will be done. I will arrange for an obligation on all Lasombra who want recognition and peaceful passage through your city. They must each deliver a vampire older than themselves to a place of your choosing, for whatever fate you deem appropriate.”||”|
Of course, the letter of the deal was not to deliver elders of the Lasombra, but elders of the Sabbat. Princes interpret this rule differently, and before the Justicars know it, individual Princes are enforcing their own Lasombra admittance rules. Some are more relaxed than others, some are far stricter. The Amici Noctis believe the Camarilla will tire of the taste of Lasombra blood when they realize they are purging useful Keepers in the same way Stalin executed almost all his effective military officers. Until then, however, they will state which Lasombra are exempt from the internal hunt. Obviously, the Amici Noctis are on top of the exemption list.
Lasombra naturally seek power and authority to prove themselves better than others; as a result, they once formed the bulk of the Sabbat's administrative offices: ducti, prisci, and the like. Tzimisce are more likely to be pack priests, while the Lasombra focus on the practical matters of administration and leadership. The Lasombra operate under the metaphor of "shadows". They do not stand in the limelight, preferring to manipulate others to their own ends while doing as little as possible to make themselves a target. This is not done solely out of fear, but because many Lasombra have domineering and superior personalities that necessitate having someone beneath them. This role is usually filled by mortals; though they are not quite as adept at manipulating the living world as the Ventrue are, those cultures that still revere the Catholic Church often have several generations of Lasombra pulling their strings. Those who find themselves under the control of a Lasombra can expect a demanding and unrewarding experience. Their domitor will use any and all tools available to ensure loyalty, such as the Blood Bond, coercion, physical intimidation, and unapologetic use of Dominate. The wise Lasombra will judge just how much of this force is necessary; too little and the servant is untrustworthy, too much and the servant is spineless and afraid to act when they need to act.
Separate from Sabbat organization, the Lasombra maintain a clan-specific organization, the Friends of the Night, usually called les amies noires (amici noctis during the Dark Ages). While a Lasombra can be in the clan and not a Friend of the Night, all Lasombra who matter are part of the organization. The Friends are something of a formalized favor network within the Lasombra - they grant prestige and prestation, but the most notable feature of the friends are the Courts of Blood which regulate diablerie.
The Lasombra are a clan driven by ambition, and consequently they accept diablerie as a necessary facet of their existence; from the Lasombra perspective, the only tragedy in diablerie is that such an unworthy vampire as the vessel was sired in the first place. The courts regulate diablerie by accepting petitions to diablerize other Lasombra and authorize hunts - these hunts usually have conditions attached because the target must be guilty of something before the hunt is authorized. The court system ensures that diablerie is managed – Lasombra are allowed, if not flat-out encouraged to cannibalize appropriate targets, but those targets must be judged worthy of this attention by a court before the attack can take place. In the turbulence of modern nights, it is unclear how this practice will survive as the Friends of Night seek admittance to the Ivory Tower.
Lasombra consensus holds that overly rigid structures turn on their creators. Thus the institutions within the clan operate flexibly and with substantial local autonomy. These informal distinctions are just as deadly earnest as anything chartered and codified, but they are much more lethal for being open to interpretation, as any Court of Blood can prove. Most of the Lasombra subcultures have no organization or even a well-known name. They are outlooks rather than institutions. A group that became organized enough to challenge the courts would be co-opted and folded into the Friends themselves or destroyed, depending upon how well the group's leaders plead their case.
- Corsairs – The Corsairs are Lasombra that have answered the call of the sea that seems to be inherent to their blood. They spend most of their time on the waves, often masquerading as pirates, and some never come on dry land.
- Crusaders - The Crusaders view the Sabbat as a religious and military organization almost to the exclusion of the Sabbat as an ideology of freedom. They often have strong ties with the Ultra-Conservatives within the Sabbat.
- Faithful - The Faithful draw their traditions from the once strong hold of the Lasombra within the Catholic Church. Ardent followers of God and believers in their own damnation alike, these individuals seek to fulfill the will of God in this world.
- Kings and Queens of Shadow - The Kings and Queens of Shadow take part in mortal institutions, exerting influence, gathering resources and in general keeping the mortal population unaware of the vampires among them. Most have distanced themselves from regular Sabbat activities to maintain their Humanity.
- Children of the Abyss – The Children of the Abyss follow the ancient traditions of Abyss Mysticism, often paying only lip service to the Sabbat but staying in line, as the sect provides them with the means to pursue their arcane art.
- Transhumanists - Transhumanists revel in their predatory nature and seek to perfect their undead state. Transhumanists quantify their various powers, work out taxonomies and otherwise seek to reduce vampirism to data. Many have a keen interest in mortal technology, particular in those that augment the human body, while others seek a perfect state without reliance on external tools.
- Fatalists - Fatalists are those Lasombra that have stopped believing in freedom of Will. Many claim that their blood ties them directly to the elders and methuselahs of their Clan and these beings are in charge of the destinies of their progeny.
- Doomed - The Doomed are an exhibitionist lot among the Clan that do not believe in the value of secrecy and aim to gain immediate and direct control of their environment, often without concerns to the kine. Many Lasombra kill those Clan mates on sight.
- Black Angels - Also called Angellis Ater (possibly in remembrance from a bloodline originating from the Dark Ages), these Lasombra revel in their state as servants of Satan and enemies of God, practicing Satanism and other socially repulsive things.
- Factionless - The Factionless are those Lasombra that have not yet found an overlying purpose within the history of the Clan and give more regards to their sect than their heritage.
The bloodline has been around since at least the Middle Ages, descended in part from a powerful Baali called Azaneal. (See also the Azaneali) This monstrous vampire acted as a leader within the Baali line for a time, and twisted the orthodoxy of some Kindred enough to create a kind of heresy, one that was all too attractive to the Lasombra.
The Clan of Shadows' power base traditionally included the Catholic Church, and over time the Angellis Ater made at least some inroad with these pious (or pious-seeming) Lasombra. How much influence in the Church they were able to wield is not known, but they did survive the Inquisition.
Angellis Ater are rare in modern nights, but they do exist.
The so-called "black angels" believe that vampires are the instrument of Satan, and they worship sin and the darkness of the soul. Their Lasombra blood lets them reach into the blackness, pull it forth and manipulate it, and the black angels become dependent upon and addicted to use of the Obtenebration Discipline over time.
The Angellis Ater have lacked organisation since their fall during the Dark Ages. After Namtaru's Tomb rampage when Azaneal almost killed all of them, they started to slowly decrease in number, until around fifty remained during the 20th century. In fact, when the Baali rose again, Angelis Ater started to work with the Inquisition again, searching for those infernalists and trying to eradicate them with their knowledge about Demons. In fact, an Angelis Ater can achieve Demonhood for many reasons, including eradicating cultists and other infernalists.
The Arabian Lasombra, or Qabilat al-Khayal were notable among their Islamic Kindred counterparts in that they were one of the few bay't to be majority Christian. Islam took hold in a few places in the clan, especially Iberia, and caused major rifts in the bay't. Those Christian Lasombra in Qabilat al-Khayal lands felt trapped and torn by refusing to adapt to the Islamic religion there. The Islamic ones, however, were some of the most devoted to Islam's cause. The Qabilat al-Khayal even had their own representatives among the Amici Noctis, named the Asdiqa' al-Lail.
Even in the Final Nights, there are Lasombra that eschew contact with the Sabbat and remain part of the Ashirra. The collective stance of the Clan to them is not known, but some are protected by edicts from the Friends of the Night themselves, while others have strong allies among the local Kindred.
Lasombra antitribu (Pre-V5)
There are no Lasombra antitribu, at least, not according to the Lasombra themselves. The Sabbat Lasombra deny that "traitors" exist, while the so-called antitribu see themselves as Lasombra — nothing more, nothing less. Not all Lasombra who disagree with the clan's stance within the Sabbat join the Camarilla – a significant percentage of this relatively small number simply go independent and absent themselves from vampiric politics entirely. The remainder, however, seize for themselves positions of respect and authority – if not prominence – in the Camarilla.
Philosophically, Camarilla Lasombra differ little from their Sabbat compatriots on a basic level. The antitribu still fully expect to win the Jyhad; they just see the Camarilla as a more efficient and effective tool for doing so than the Sabbat is. Distaste for the rabble the Sabbat is encased in shows clearly in the attitudes of the Camarilla Lasombra, as they regard the Sabbat tactic of mass Embraces as wasteful and insulting. Indeed, even the supporters of antitribu inclusion in the Camarilla see these vampires as haughty, arrogant and impatient. Few suffer fools or incompetent underlings to live, and the penalty for failing an assignment set by a Lasombra antitribu is often death. The position occupied by these few self-exiled Kindred is an ambiguous one. On one hand, these vampires are Lasombra, the core of the dreaded Sabbat, and no Camarilla vampire is ever completely certain that the defection is genuine. On the other hand, essentially all Lasombra antitribu are creatures of undeniable power and presence, and are devoted to the destruction of the Sabbat in a way that few other Kindred are. The Camarilla cannot afford to waste these Cainites' talents, powers and knowledge of the enemy but cannot afford to trust them entirely, either.
|“||Our clan has a long heritage of leadership in a very primal and pure sense. We do not soil ourselves with the
petty details of reckoning every little scrap; we command and seize.
|— Unnamed Paladin|
Lasombra are fiercely predatory creatures, and the Lasombra mindset is defined by an embrace of darkness itself. The Lasombra firmly believe that power is best held by the most worthy, and that the primary test of worthiness is acquiring said power. As a result, they are predatory, backstabbing, power-hungry and unapologetically arrogant about their position. Needless to say, the Lasombra and Ventrue despise each other. Historically, the two clans have sought out parallel dominions – the Lasombra focused on the Mediterranean, the Ventrue on Germany. The Lasombra went to the Church, the Ventrue went to the state. The Lasombra went to the Sabbat, the Ventrue to the Camarilla. And finally, the Ventrue deduce their claim of rulership over all Cainites through their lineage from the first of the Third Generation, while the Lasombra claim leadership over them as the Clan who first managed to slay their Antediluvian founder. With the Lasombra defection from the Sabbat, many Ventrue delight at the opportunity to lord over a clan they have struggled against for centuries, but the Magisters themselves see this as an opportunity to turn the Ventrue's arrogance against them. They become advisors, bodyguards, and regents to Ventrue Princes, dethroning the weakened Tremere and slighting the undervalued Toreador without directly threatening the sceptre that the Clan of Kings holds so dear; the Lasombra know that you don't need to sit on the throne to control the kingdom.
Lasombra pride themselves on doing things with style and elegance. That does not mean they all dress alike, act alike or furnish their havens the same way. Almost anything can be elegant. One of the classic Lasombra virtues is the gift of exposition, allowing one vampire to explain to others why this particular choice is in fact elegant. The clan favors its members who can articulate their preferences in a persuasive manner. The clan frowns on efforts to shock – unless they work. Managing to introduce something so unfamiliar that it tramples on existing assumptions and yet, with explanation, manages to fit clan imperatives is one way to win a great deal of honor.
That stated, the Lasombra embrace of the Mediterranean and the Church has left odd marks on their clan culture. Many Lasombra are drawn to the ultimate darkness at the depths of the ocean. Even now, the Lasombra are prone to some ancestral Catholicism, notable figures such as Archbishop Ambrosio Luis Monçada still view the world in Catholic terms - they believe in God and their own damnation with equal certainty. Elder Lasombra in particular place a strong emphasis on confession, although without redemption.
Since their beginning, the Clan has extremely strong ties to the sea; some speculate that this fascination stems from the Antediluvian's experience of the Deluge and marks his beginning of fascination with the Abyss. The compulsion to spend time around dark tides comes even as many generations remove from the Antediluvian. It is not uncommon for Elder Lasombra to resettle to the coastlines and one day to venture into the flood and to never re-emerge from it.
The Lasombra are also noted for a strong fascination with chess; the game serves as a metaphor for Vampiric existence (or at least, as the Lasombra see it), and consequently any Lasombra who plans to get anywhere in the clan is proficient in the game.
Finally, something must be said about the impact that the lost visage has on the Lasombra. The clan weakness makes it impossible for a Lasombra to ever see his own image again – mirrors, photography, and other reflective media fail, and the Lasombra react to this problem in a variety of ways. Clan culture places a strong emphasis on not overreacting to this problem – it is generally acceptable to sit for a portrait every few years, but extreme reactions (such as hiring a Tzimisce to flesh sculpt a ghoul) is considered a breach of good taste and grounds for diablerie.
As with any clan, Lasombra sires look for mortals who suit their ideals. They have no time for weakness, and feel the only way to survive is to excel, to cut away the trappings of sympathy and petty morality wherever they might slow down the Lasombra's ascent to power. Those who fight against the odds, survive dangerous situations, and exist at the pinnacle of excellence draw the eyes of the Lasombra upon them. The Magisters describe their Embrace tradition as “targeting those fit for more than a simple human life.”
Sociopaths, counter-culturalists, deviants, and scarred survivors all hold appeal for the Lasombra. Anyone who can say they have seen the dark on the other side, and subsequently came back stronger, is a potential candidate for the Embrace. Many become vampires obsessed with the accumulation of social power, prepared to mislead and use mortals to elevate themselves. Others were like that before the Embrace, with such pragmatic traits leading to their ascent in Lasombra eyes.
When a Lasombra finds a mortal who seems to hold the potential for greatness as a vampire, it is common for the Keeper to decide to 'test' that mortal to see if they can rise to the occasion, or if they will instead crumble under the weight of the Lasombra's attention. These tests will feel like the victim's life is falling apart, as they lose their job and opportunities, become alienated from friends and family, or even suffer great physical harm at the hands of the monster. How they react is what matters, whether they become strong or reveal themselves to be pitiful. That is what decides whether they are left in the ruins, or brought into the night.
Relationship with Ghouls
Many Lasombra loathe the idea of ghouls with a passion. To them, a mortal in the world of Cainites is as absurd as a poodle putting on a tutu and walking around on its hind legs. Due to their command of Potence and Dominate, mortals are laughably easy to control, both physically and mentally; how could the Lasombra possibly respect or value such a pathetically weak and frail thing? As a consequence, the ghoul of a Lasombra is typically a sniveling and timid wretch, living in terror of a single mistake which could end their lives. Unfortunately the Lasombra's shared Bane makes ghouls such a fact of unlife that few can avoid using them for one purpose or another.
Lasombra ghouls tend to fall into two broad categories. The first are the raft of accountants, lawyers, and bankers that the Lasombra need to keep the finances rolling in, and perhaps these are the luckier of the two groups – as long as the books balance at the end of the day, they will live to see another one. The second group caters to the Lasombra's difficulty with technology and their own image. Some Lasombra keep an army of personal attendants – scores of ghouls to brush the mistress' hair, do her makeup, dress her, and attend to her correspondence. Such attendants are punished severely for infractions. If the hair is not brushed with exactly one hundred strokes the ghoul might find themselves on the wrong side of the hairbrush, a Potence fuelled hand wielding it. Some Lasombra develop mental fixations from their curse, and force ghouls of either stripe to share a distorted image. For example, having their faces reduced to identical spiderwebs of scar tissue or being forced to wear featureless white masks.
Due to their inherent clan weakness, Lasombra vampires cast no reflections. They cannot be seen in mirrors, bodies of water, reflective windows, polished metals, photographs and security cameras, etc. This curious anomaly even extends to the clothes they wear and objects they carry. Many Kindred believe that the Lasombra have been cursed in this manner for their vanity. Additionally, due to their penchant for darkness, Lasombra take an extra level of damage from sunlight.
Distorted Image: The broken souls of Lasombra vampires are halfway drawn into the Abyss. All reflections and recordings distort, flicker, or become transparent (though this does not conceal their identity with any certainty). Microphones have the same difficulty with the vampire's voice as cameras have with their image, touch technology becomes unresponsive at best, and their anomalous nature makes it harder to avoid electronic detection systems. With effort they may overcome this difficulty but it’s as if they exist on a slightly different frequency to other beings, flickering in and out of light. Many Lasombra have attendants to handle technology for them, but a few strange beasts manage without.
Ruthlessness: To the Lasombra, failure is not an option. Their Blood urges them to increasingly ruthless measures when the Beast flares and they are faced with failure. The next action they fail after suffering this Compulsion causes all rolls to receive a penalty until a future attempt at the same action succeeds.
- On the Vampire: The Masquerade Pin Display set, which included all the major bloodlines as well as the clans, the antitribu pins were displayed as a white symbol on top of a black "antitribu shield". The single exception was the Lasombra antitribu pin, which was displayed as a black symbol on a white shield – perhaps because they were the only antitribu clan which was notable for having joined the Camarilla rather than the Sabbat (and since the antitribu shield is derived from the Sabbat ankh, it may have symbolized being "out of the Sabbat"). All subsequent books presented the white-on-black logo with which we are familiar, however.
- (Book One: Magisters - The Lasombra)
|Vampire: The Masquerade Clans|
|Banu Haqim (Assamites) · Brujah · Gangrel · Hecata (Cappadocians, Giovanni) · Lasombra · Malkavian · Ministry (Followers of Set) · Nosferatu · Ravnos · Salubri · Toreador · Tremere · Tzimisce · Ventrue|