The Masquerade, Chapters 5-6

The chapter opens with the former apprentices gathering to get their new health bar tattoos made. Ira arrives late, knocking Pavel on the floor. They talk, and she implies they had sex the previous night. Pavel doesn’t remember.Their master (whose name is Maharnen, by the way. Another Internet alias, naturally) arrives and informs them about the death of the drunken vampire from yesterday.

The author attempts to create a heavy emotional moment, with vampires grieving over their fallen comrade and contemplating their own mortality, but again, forty people each, not counting other kills. It’s not working.

The moment passes, they get their health bars, and then they are given new weapons. Two guns for each of them, because of course they would prefer to fire from two hands. They also receive a Jedi mind trick card, which allows them to carry weapons around without police confiscating them.

Maharnen tells them they soon will resume the training and learn how to use their new costumes. Costumes, naturally, are magic. Right only one function was revealed: conditioning. Again, I am serious.

That’s it for the scene. Vampires go home, most wearing sunglasses to complete the Neo image.

Pavel and Ira wander the city for a time, with Pavel thinking about how he actually doesn’t care that much about the dead vampire, but is thankful to him for providing a warning about the hunter for him. He frames it in a sweeping comment about the human nature, thinking that all people feel that way when they learn about a serial killer on the loose in their neighborhoods. No, Pavel, I think it’s just you.

He parts with Ira and arrives home, discovering that he forgot the keys inside. He knocks, Elena answers him. The door opens then, and he is met with a spray of holy water. Way to go, Elena, you continue to be my favorite character, I just wish you’d be more successful.

Unfortunately, Mary Sues cannot be killed by conventional means. Pavel quickly overpowers Elena and knocks her out. When she wakes up, he tortures her, reducing her to crying and begging him to spare his life. He taunts her some more, pointing out how far she has fallen from her righteous anger.

I think Farla mentioned it in her Unwind reviews, that idea that begging somehow diminishes a person compared to stoically and defiantly tolerating any abuse or torture. It’s a pretty poisonous idea in general, and especially when we are supposed to root for the torturer. Because no, begging doesn’t mean you are somehow not worthy of help or respect, it just means you fear pain and death – pretty human qualities. That it’s used as a justification for more abuse is just sick.

And of course Pavel abuse Elena more. He beats her up, specifically telling us he’s damaged her face, because that’s what’s important when you are fighting a woman, then knocks her out again with a painful move.

On the more positive “let’s shit on VtM” topic, we have this:

“Anger boiled in his heart, requiring an outlet, hereditary Malkavian Madness was about to take hold over his mind.”

That’s literally the first time we hear about the madness of Malkavians. That they are known as lunatics was actually mentioned, but only in passing, and Pavel said it’s just a mask they wear.

As I said before, Malkavians are mad prophets of vampires. Their insanity can take any form from schizophrenia to Lolrandom Syndrome. Here, though, it’s changed to a sort of battle frenzy more suited for Bruja, depriving the story once again of variety.

You may think that it would serve as an explanation for Pavel’s behavior and his tendency to snap and kill people, but no, we can’t have flaws that actually make things harder for the protagonist. He quickly reins in the “madness” and instead of killing Elena carves the words “I’m an idiot” on her forehead.

Then he grabs his things and leaves the home, deciding to spend some time on dacha and figure out how to proceed from there.

This scene is another reason why I’ve decided to do a readthrough of this book, but now that I’ve reached it, I honestly don’t know what to say. It’s just… vile. I highly suspect it’s a revenge fantasy of the author himself leaking on the pages, and all I can hope for is that he wrote it with both hands.

I mean, really, he is so ridiculously repulsive, I expect him to start talking about ol’ good ultraviolence while drinking moloko anytime soon. Unlike Alex, however, Pavel is intended to be a sympathetic character, which honestly baffles me to no end.

OK, moving on. Pavel calls Ira to tell her about his plans and tell Maharnen should he ask. Ira instead comes to him. They dick around for some time, testing their new toys (guns are naturally awesome, costumes don’t do anything yet. Pavel manages a cool swirl of the cape, while Ira just fumbles and loses her balance because of course). Then Ira talks about the last night, Pavel remembers what happened, they decide to forget it and have sex for the “first” time.

Mercifully, we are spared a sex scene. Instead we jump into Alexei’s head. Alexei wakes up from a brief sleep and gathers his stuff to move to a new safe house. However, he sense two vampires in an apartment below him. At first he thinks he was discovered, but actually it’s just a sire delivering a neonate back to his home. The neonate is a twelve year old boy. Alexei comments that vampires turn people starting from ten years. Which is… why? It doesn’t make much sense to turn a child, it’s something I would expect to see only in unusual circumstances, like with a child dying and a vampire wanting to save him, or the way it was in Interview of the Vampire, with the child serving as a surrogate kid of a vampire in a twisted parody of a family, or something else like that. Here, however, it just serves to make the vampires even more ridiculously evil than they were, which is sure an accomplishment.

Sire leaves, Alexei tricks the boy into opening a door and kills him. To decisively prove that we can’t have sympathetic main characters, he kills his mother, too, once she walks into the room to see what’s the noise is about.

He runs, horrified at first at killing a human, but quickly rationalizing that she deserved to die for producing a vampire.

Following a cipher note left to him by Teacher, he decides to skip town and go to Tver, where he may meet with other hunters.

The whole scene is obviously meant to be shocking. It’s interesting to note the difference between it and the forty people massacre. The victims here are presented as people rather than obstacles, Alexei actually has a moment of horror over his actions, confirming to the reader that yes, what he did was bad. All in all, it’s designed to make Alexei unsympathetic, probably because the author realized that he is a much better protagonist than Pavel, especially now that he started actually doing stuff.

The chapter ends with a script format dialogue (no descriptions, no actions, no dialogue tags) in which one Council member calls another to tell about the even we just saw. I have no idea why this scene is here.

Just to remind you: it’s a published book. Someone has edited it.

The only interesting bit in the discussion is that the killed boy was a Tremere. Which means he was a magical boy vampire. I’d watch that anime.

Next chapter opens with Pavel resting on a roof and thinking about how much he fears the hunter. Ira joins him soon and jokingly asks if he tries to get a tan. They proceed to have a conversation in which the author demonstrates that he’s – shockingly – slightly better when it comes to race issues than Twilight by saying that black people don’t get paler after becoming vampires. The whole conversation is still vaguely racist, though, with “people of color” (quote marks are author’s) being discussed as some kind of exotic beasts from far away.

They decide to visit Sergei in order to receive some exposition about holy power. Come on, everyone knows that hole force is holy mass multiplied by acceleration.

According to Sergei, though, holy power is actually mind power. Vampires use it freely, but humans normally can’t. Instead they have to gather together and perform rituals, with power directed into various objects, of which a symmetric cross is an ideal.

The whole thing is pretty dismissive of faith in general and presents organized religion as a scam concerned only with gathering more energy, which is used not only to fight various monsters, but also to benefit priests with health and prolongedd life.

Sergei also says he doesn’t believe in God, and that visions during the Embrace are most likely just your expectations of what afterlife is like taking form.

Comparing it to VtM… Well, it’s complicated. Technically, whether or not God exist, whether vampires do descend from Cain or not and other such stuff is supposed to be unclear. In reality, it’s pretty definitely stated: God exist, he cursed Cain with vampirism, Cain went to create a vampire society, then disappeared.

The church, as I recall, is mostly presented as a human institute. Sometimes vampires would infiltrate it, sometimes it would spawn hunter organizations, but for the most part you would find neither salvation nor damnation here. The power of faith is presented as individual and more fluid then the energy scheme.

Anyway, I am not the best person to talk about religion, so comments on the matter would be welcome.

Also, we learn that silver holds positive Godly energy, while gold is better suited for negative satanic energy.

Grand Temple of Satan
Satan Himself

Seriously, wtf? It doesn’t really make sense on symbolic level. Gold is a noble metal, it’s incorruptible. Late alchemy used gold heavily in metaphors about spiritual journeys and improving yourself.

Anyway, after they finished dissing all organized religion, the three have a friendly sparring match because that’s what passes here for bonding moments.

The scene ends, and we jump to Alexei, who has already arrived in Tver and is now looking for another stash of weapons. He quickly finds it and discovers holy sword +5, an uber-weapon forged by a saint. Why the sword was just buried here instead of being put in use is not explained. Alexei’s Teacher knew about the stash, he was the one to lead Alexei here, so why not take it and go kill some monsters? Alexei thinks that’s because he’s a chosen one, and it’s his fate to stop vampires once and for all, thus quickly spending whatever remaining points he’s managed to score with me.

He also gets a bottle of vampire blood. I would note here that hunters here use vampire blood for a boost. That is actually consistent with VtM lore, to my surprise: human drinking vampire blood would turn into a ghoul, which is basically a normal human but with some vampire abilities and prolonged life. Drinking blood of one specific vampire leads to the ghoul becoming utterly devoted to said vampire, but if you just steal blood from your victims, it can actually work fine, and there are some canon examples of people doing it.

Of course, the blood Alexei found is not just any blood, but the blood of an ancient powerful vampire, thus better. So it seems the book is building up t a fight between two Mary Sues. Lovely.

Then we jump to Vinzarra, that woman from the Council. To author’s credit, despite her treatment earlier, she is the one going around doing stuff. Specifically, she is the one investigating wild vampires on behalf of the Council. Long story short, she’s managed to find their lair and discovered that they are aided by a bunch of old wild vampires, which shouldn’t be possible.

We aren’t actually shown her discovery, the scene is about her calling some other Council member to deliver the news.

After the call she boards a train going to Moscow by jumping on it and breaking a window. Inside she finds a woman similar to her in appearance and throws her out because there shall be no likeable viewpoint character. She also repairs the window and brainwashes other passengers into thinking everything is OK.

Then we cut back to Pavel waking up and narrowly escaping meeting his parents by using his spider senses. He and Ira go back to Sergei for help, and he lends them the key to one of his safe houses. In return he asks only that “once you become an influential vampire in Camarilla – and you will become it – put a word in for an old caitiff.”

It’s actually not the first time Sergei comments on how great Pavel is, but the most blatant for now.

With that the chapter end.

3 Comments

  1. GeniusLemur says:
    “We aren’t actually shown her discovery, the scene is about her calling some other Council member to deliver the news.”
    Aaaaagh! Left Behind flashback!
    1. illhousen says:
      It isn’t as extreme as Left Behind, but there are bits where we are told what is going to happen, then that things happens, then characters talk about what happened. I guess it comes down to banter being much easier to write than proper scenes.
  2. the_whittler says:
    “The author attempts to create a heavy emotional moment, with vampires grieving over their fallen comrade and contemplating their own mortality”

    Oh, look! Another thing this novel shares with Twilight: extreme moral dissonance. 40 humans needlessly murdered in cold blood? Who cares! One sociopathic affront against nature killed by a hunter? Boohoo, he had so much to unlive for.

    “He quickly reins in the “madness” and instead of killing Elena carves the words “I’m an idiot” on her forehead.”

    Never have I read anything more like a revenge fantasy written by a twelve-year-old boy.

    “I would note here that hunters here use vampire blood for a boost. That is actually consistent with VtM lore, to my surprise: human drinking vampire blood would turn into a ghoul, which is basically a normal human but with some vampire abilities and prolonged life.”

    I had a game where there was a hunter who did this. She was a really tragic figure: unable to manifest True Faith, she resorted to drinking vampire blood to make herself stronger. She saw vampire blood as vile and satanic, and rightfully so, because while drinking it would give you power, it would align you with the monsters you were supposed to fight. So she sacrificed the own “purity” of her soul for the greater good.

    Drinking the blood of your enemies in order to fight them and being corrupted by it isn’t even exclusive to VtM hunters. Becoming like the enemy and sacrificing your moral integrity is a compelling story for any hero.

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