Blood and Bourbon
The Devil's Darling
Few Kindred are renowned beyond the limits of the city in which they have made their haven. The interests of the Damned are almost universally personal and rarely furthered by activity that exceeds the geographic boundary of their own domains. In fact, despite a salacious social construct that elevates its saints and bogeymen to artificial heights, most Kindred spend the bulk of their existence in local pursuits. Pursuing a secret, acquiring information, creating a work of art, mastering a Discipline, enjoying a literary or cinematic work, or simply overseeing one’s nightly affairs takes time. Even setting aside the never-ending hunt for blood, most Kindred simply have no interest in involving themselves in the affairs of other Kindred who don’t threaten their domains. Even the vaunted Primogen and Princes much prefer to remain big fish in their respective small ponds than small fish in a much larger ocean. Recognition and fame only invite a host of political and supernatural entanglements that offer far more trouble than benefit. Worse, celebrity among the undead is the surest way to draw the attention of hunters, Kindred or otherwise.
Some few among the Damned have risen to notoriety, however. Besides the semi-mythical Antediluvians and a host of legendary Methuselahs, for the most part these Kindred are elders whose achievements were instrumental in shaping the modern society of vampires. Hardestadt, for example, whether admired or reviled, is known across the globe by many Kindred for his role in the founding of the Camarilla. On the other hand, Francisco Domingo de Polonia, the one-time Sabbat Archbishop of New York City, achieved fame primarily due to the global importance of his domain. In addition, certain Justicars and a few of those they hunt have also become known throughout the world’s Elysiums. Still, besides their names, little else of these figures is known, even by Kindred of a scholarly nature.
Ultimately, only a handful of Kindred have achieved anything akin to true fame, becoming legends by virtue of their deeds and misdeeds. One of these, a rogue whose exploits have been recounted by the Damned from Los Angeles to St. Petersburg is Esperanza Lucifer, the Devil of the Deep.
According to some accounts, Esperanza was the daughter of a Spanish naval commander who fought the mostly French and English buccaneers who patrolled the waters off the coast of Hispaniola. Others claim that she was actually a prostitute, brought to the island of Tortuga by the French to sate the rampant lusts of the local pirates. A few voices say she was both: a lord’s daughter captured and forced into prostitution by her captors. Whatever the truth, all tales agree that she was quite young and quite beautiful, with long, fair tresses and eyes of the deepest blue, like the sea.
Aristocrat or harlot, Esperanza fell in love with a veteran captain employed by the Dutch West India Company, one Hendrick Jacobszoon, a rather rough- around-the-edges fellow who adopted the surname Lucifer to enhance his image among friend and foe alike. How the affair began is the unclear, but in 1627 the two were together when Hendrick’s ship had a fateful encounter with a pair of Spanish ships sailing from Honduras.
The three Dutch West India Company ships dared not let the opportunity pass, and so set upon the Spanish ships, succeeding in capturing one, while the other escaped their barbarous clutches. The fighting was fierce and Hendrick was injured by a bullet in the action. Ignoring pain, he fought as if possessed , winning the day as well as an untold fortune in guilders. He was unable to enjoy the spoils, however. Later that day, in his own cabin with Esperanza at his side, he breathed his last.
Terrified at being left alone with Hendrick’s bloodthirsty crew now that her protector was gone, Esperanza racked her brain for a way of avoiding what seemed an obvious and unwholesome fate. She hatched a scheme that called upon all the imagination, courage, self-control, and willpower she could muster, along with a hearty helping of rum. Emboldened by drink and what she saw as her only possible recourse, clad in some of the accoutrements of her now-deceased lover, armed with his pistol and rapier, the young girl vanished in the blood-stained cabin and the new captain of the ship stepped onto the deck.
The crew was flabbergasted at Esperanza’s daring and thought it a joke, laughing at the woman’s audacity. The humor died when one of the pirates dared to grab her and found six inches of steel in his stomach, courtesy of the self-anointed Captain Esperanza Lucifer. The action gave her enough room to quickly tell the crew of how, unless they accepted her command, they would suffer at the hands of the Spanish. She surprised even herself with her rhetorical gifts at that moment and feared it might not prove enough for the hungry, drunken crew, but many were exhausted, wounded, and in no more mood for violence. They had their gold and they wanted little more than to return to port to enjoy their share of the plunder. Until they made port, most reasoned, the sailors might as well give her the service she wanted.
Esperanza’s initial plan to flee upon making land did not come to pass. Perhaps she had nowhere to go, or she was more worried about her fate away from the crew than with them. Or, she simply realized the potential offered by being a pirate captain. Again, it matters little to most Kindred what her thinking was at the time. What is of importance is what happened a few years later when, for a second time on the high seas, she faced a truly life-altering decision.
Word of Captain Lucifer’s “mutiny” was widespread, especially in Tortuga and among those seafarers who frequented that infamous port city. She became one of the most wanted pirates when the Spanish recaptured the town in 1654, yet she proved exceptionally capable of evading capture. But all man’s works must come to an end, and her own ship (which she had rechristened the Devil’s Darling) finally met a force that it could not outgun or outrun.
Esperanza’s foe was not another ship, but rather a mysterious visitor who appeared on deck one particularly stormy night: a master of the briny waves, who proved unbeatable. A Lasombra of great age rose from the depths of the churning sea, inexorably drawn to the charismatic pirate captain. Under cover of unnatural darkness and torrential rains, the shadowy vampire entered Esperanza’s cabin and introduced itself. Those who tell the tale hotly debate its name and even gender, but it was undeniably potent. One version of the story even claims that the Lasombra was the Antediluvian’s spawn and that it had lain in torpor beneath the sea floor since the Great Deluge, rising only when it tasted a tide-borne drop of the fiery Captain Lucifer’s blood.
The Ancient had fed on nearly half the crew before entering the captain’s private bedchamber in order to quench its ungodly hunger, so that when it did enter and present itself to the half-asleep woman, it was able to do so with a demeanor of civility. The incalculable power of its presence and the unbelievable words it spoke left Esperanza incapable of responding. When she finally did, the legend says she agreed to become like her visitor only so long as she was permitted to keep her ship and crew, which had apparently become her life’s purpose. The Lasombra gave its word that she would be able to do as she pleased, then it unleashed the forces of the ocean’s blackest depths and she drowned in the darkness of its Embrace.
Of course, a few stories relate Esperanza’s activities or whereabouts for the next decade. Some among the Night Clan assumed that she accompanied her sire for at least some of this time, learning the ways of the Damned and doing its bidding, whatever that may have been. Suffice to say that in 1666 the Devil’s Darling was again in action and once more making quite the name for itself and its Damned captain. By this time, however, though the ship was involved in a number of well-known acts of traditional piracy, its real target was of far more interest to the Kindred. Esperanza’s primary concern had become the destruction of those Lasombra who did not cleave to the Sabbat, the antitribu traitors who had joined Montano’s cause and threw their support behind the Camarilla and its staid ways. Yet other stories attribute more mercenary acts to the Devil’s Darling, including the smuggling of the Lasombra antitribu Methuselah Aludian Thex to the New World. For cause or currency, the Devil’s Darling was a significant force in Kindred maritime power.
Throughout the Caribbean and the Atlantic the Devil’s Darling hunted these wayward Lasombra, many of whom had themselves taken to piracy. Perhaps it goes without saying that many of her most recounted battles took place under the light of the moon, though her crew, rumored to be ghouls or revenants possessed of some small measure of supernatural ability, certainly took advantage of daylight to capture enemy vessels and more easily dispatch their captain’s enemies. As the stories of Esperanza’s adventures grew even in her own time, the Camarilla made some effort to put an end to her business, more to protect their financial interests than the Lasombra fugitives she hounded.
It is said that, like her sire, Esperanza came to possess an unusually formidable mastery of Obtenebration, one that seemed fittingly adapted to her environs. In particular, one popular tale tells of how she found herself along with another ship cut off from an escape route near Cuba by a half-dozen warships backed by Camarilla interests. As her second ship listed under cannon-fire and her own seemed poised for a similar fate, Captain Lucifer called upon the very void of the ocean depths and from it summoned the mythical Kraken, a nightmarish monstrosity whose umbrageous tentacles rose up from the swelling waves and pulled each of the enemy ships to their watery doom. The crews on board were drained of their vitae, exsanguinated by the hellish thing before being sent to Davy Jones’ Locker.
Some suggest that Esperanza consumed the souls of her foes when she could, sometimes engaging in diablerie and sometimes indulging something even worse, if such a practice exists. This tall tale, and many others, ensured that the Devil’s Darling, as both Esperanza’s ship and later the captain herself were named, would not be easily forgotten and would go down in the history of the Kindred as entertainment at the least, if not actual fact. Even some of her pack, who served as officers both on her flagship and other vessels of her buccaneer fleet, gained some acclaim of their own. A particularly repulsive Tzimisce known as Abbatoir, who led the ritae for the Devil’s Darlings and is said to have committed diablerie no less than four times, was put down in 1708 near the Florida Keys by a Gangrel of some esteem. Another member of the pack, a Toreador antitribu named Mogrovejo destroyed a trio of Ventrue, including a childe of Prince Mithras of London, who were traveling to England from the Americas in 1811.
While the great age of piracy finally ended in the mid-1700s, the name of Esperanza Lucifer proved far more durable. Rather than fade away into the shadows along with tales of swashbuckling avarice and dramatic sea battles, the Devil’s Darling continued to make her presence felt in ways that her fellow Kindred could not ignore.
In 1812 Esperanza threw her support behind the just- announced war on Britain by the United States. Quiet for a time, she recruited a crew for her fleet in Baltimore and terrorized ships of the Royal Navy, technically as a privateer under the flag of the U.S. Naturally, the targets chosen were often those ships believed to be transporting Camarilla Kindred, for the Devil’s Darling had by now largely turned her aggressions toward that sect as a whole rather than merely her clan’s antitribu, who were likely too few in number to reasonably pursue. With Lucifer’s ships in play, the Sabbat had a very real impact, with no less than two dozen Kindred meeting their Final Death in the cold waters of the Atlantic.
Esperanza’s interest in the seafaring unlife eventually waned and by the mid-1800s she had abandoned her legacy and made her way on land. Some members of her pack remained with her when she turned her back on the ocean, but the Devil’s Darlings never truly disbanded. Instead, the pack served its sect by supporting a series of actions against the Camarilla in the Americas. From Florida to Boston, Esperanza’s reputation grew as her pack ran the length of the East Coast striking at its enemies and plundering their precious vitae. The pack ranged in size from as many as a dozen vampires to as few as four, but, bound by their Vinculi, they were always a force to be reckoned with.
For the next two centuries, Esperanza Lucifer led her band of marauding Sabbat in an inchoate, yet effective crusade on East Coast Camarilla domains. Her actions appeared random and unplanned, save the destruction of the arrogant “Kindred” and haranguing the Ivory Tower for its close ties to the kine and their money. The Devil’s Darling has a penchant for looting the financial assets of her victims, taking advantage of her pack’s mayhem to seize whatever assets she can: cash, unsecured stocks, bearer bond certificates, property deeds, and whatever else she can get her hands on. Few Sabbat understand the importance of economics, and attempts to trace the stolen financial assets have turned up little. Many believe the former pirate captain plunders out of simple habit, or perhaps to leave a “calling card.”
More to come…
• Sire unknown. Estimates place the Devil’s Darling anywhere from the Seventh to Fourth Generations.
• None known
• None known