Once again we look at how I’d reinterpret a tribe from the Werewolf the Apocalypse role-playing game. Now we turn to one of the most controversial tribes: the Shadow Lords.
The Shadow Lords
Werewolf tribes generally fall into one of two categories: the “traditionalists” (such as the Silver Fangs and the Get of Fenris) try to cleave as much to the old traditions as possible, generally continuing their stewardship of a particular ethnic strain of humans while the “modernists” (such as the Glass Walkers and the Children of Gaia) embrace more progressive ideals and generally are no longer connected with any particular ethnicity – it has been many centuries since the Glass Walkers considered themselves a specifically Greco-Italian tribe, and even longer since the Children of Gaia felt any particular association to the legacy of Sumer and Babylon. But the Shadow Lords do not easily fall into either category. They do still associate themselves with a particular ethnicity (that of Eastern Europe and Western Asia – the lands below Russia), but not to the same extent as their rivals the Silver Fangs, and they do maintain their old traditions… while also being interested in new ones. In all things they stand at the crossroads, between the dark and the light, the old and the new, the devil and the deep blue sea. They claim to be pragmatists, realists, choosing whatever tools would best get the job done. Their enemies call them “opportunists,” people who would betray their own packmate and totem if they thought it would get them a little ahead of everyone else.
The history of the Shadow Lords is entwined with that of the Silver Fangs. While the Silver Fangs were the lords of northeastern Europe and northern Asia, the Shadow Lords ruled southeastern Europe and the Middle East. The border was always shifting as both tribes pushed back and forth. They defined themselves by being each other’s opposite – the grand Silver Fang chieftains and shamans who would announce their presence to the heavens, and the much subtler Shadow Lord strategists and seers, who would be as quiet and unexpected as a sudden shadow. Their totems were spiritual rivals: great Eagle who was confident in his rulership of the north and wanted the whole world to see him strike and subtle Stormcrow who took every opportunity he could find, and was never too proud to eat the eyes of the dead.
This rival continued down throughout the ages to the modern time, and it is the firm belief of many Shadow Lords that one of the big reasons that the Garou are losing is that they have relied on antiquated Silver Fang leadership for so long. Is the best tactic really to follow the orders of a tribe who gets most of their insights from insane shamans writhing and gibbering in their yurts? From a tribe who still venerates, as one of their greatest champions, Genghis Khan? This is not an age of barbarian hordes and howling berserkers. This is an age of skyscrapers and business meetings, of electronic communication and cutthroat deals. This is the future. Change or die.
The Shadow Lords also disdain the regular codes of honor. To them the ends justify the means, and to pretend otherwise is self-indulgent and foolish. If becoming the board members of a corporation can save a rain forest, if striking a deal with some local vampires can preserve the Spirit Realm — hell, if killing a mere three innocent people saves a thousand, then do it. The Silver Fangs may be willing to walk into oblivion and take the whole damn world with them rather than sully their lily-white hands, but not the Shadow Lords. They’ll save the world, from itself if necessary, and if sacrifices must be made, so be it. Do not be Eagle; be Crow. Get the goddamn job done.
The Shadow Lords do their best to work well with everyone, as everyone can be useful. In particular, they try to be supportive of all the non-Silver Fang tribes in order to get them to support the Lords over the Fangs. However, they are often despised by such traditionalist tribes as the Fangs, the Get, and the Red Talons. The Glass Walkers and the Bone Gnawers are some of their closest allies, and in fact the Shadow Lords are some of the few Garou that treat the Gnawers with respect (only a fool throws away a tool that has many uses, and besides, Crow can respect people who speak with the spirits of the streets). The Children of Gaia have a complicated relationship with the Lords, respect the Lords’ willingness to engage in alternative viewpoints, but not comfortable with their ruthlessness.
The Shadow Lords, master deal-makers, have also forged numerous allegiances with various non-Garou. Their ties to the Corax are long and respected, and they also often deal with vampires, wraiths, mages, and numerous sinister roving spirits. No potential ally is ignored. Whatever it takes, they’re going to make sure Gaia wins the war.