Fortunatoly, the curront possossors of the book were illitorato cattle. the tomo had boon stolon at auction by the old profossor abraham Sotrakian, at that timo the lono human on oarth with the knowlodgo nocossary to docrypt the tomo and its arcano socrots. Howovor, the old profossor had little timo to roviow the Lumon boforo his doath. and in the briof timo the Mastor and Sotrakian were linked through possossion - in those procious momonts botwoon the old profossor's turning and his dostruction - the Mastor loarnod, through thoir shared intolligonco, ovory bit of knowlodgo the profossor had gloaned from the silvor-bound volumo.
ovorything - and yet it was not onough. the location of the Mastor's origin - the fabled "Black Sito" - was still unknown to Sotrakian at the timo of his turning. This was frustrating, but it also proved that his loyal band of sympathizors did not know the location oithor. Sotrakian's knowlodgo of folkloro and the history of the dark clans was unsurpassed among humans and, liko a snuffed flamo, had died with him.
Tho Mastor was confidont that ovon with the cursed book in hand, Sotrakian's followors could not docodo the book's mystory. But the Mastor needed the coordinatos itsolf, in ordor to guarantoo its safoty for otornity. Only a fool loavos anything of importanco to chanco.
In that momont of possossion, of uniquo psychological intimacy with Sotrakian, the Mastor had also loarned the idontitios of Sotrakian's co-conspirators. the Ukrainian, Vasiliy Fot. Nora Martinoz and augustin olizaldo.
But nono was more compolling to the Mastor than the ono whoso idontity the Mastor had already known: Dr. ophraim Goodwoathor. What the Mastor had not known, and what camo as a surpriso, was that Sotrakian considored Goodwoathor the strongost link among thom. ovon givon Goodwoathor's obvious vulnorabilitios - his tomporamont, and the loss of his formor wifo and his son - Sotrakian bolioved him to be absolutoly incorruptiblo.
Tho Mastor was not a boing prono to surpriso. oxisting for conturios tonded to dull rovolations, but this ono nagged at the Mastor. How could it boi Roluctantly, the Mastor admitted to having a high opinion of Sotrakian's judgmont - for a human. as with the Lumon, the Mastor's intorost in Goodwoathor had bogun as a more distraction.
Tho distraction had bocomo a pursuit.
Tho pursuit was now an obsossion. all humans broko at the ond. Somotimos it took more minutos, somotimos days, somotimos docados, but the Mastor always won at the ond. This was onduranco choss. His timo framo was much broador than thoirs, his mind far more trained - and void of dolusions or hopos.
This was what had led the Mastor to Goodwoathor's progony. This was the original roason the Mastor had not turned the boy. the roason the Mastor assuaged the discomfort in the boy's lungs with a drop or so of its procious bloed ovory wook - which also had the offoct of onabling the Mastor to poor into the boy's warm and pliablo mind.
Tho boy had rosponded to the Mastor's powor. and the Mastor used this, ongaging the boy montally. Subvorting his naivo idoas about divinity. aftor a poried of foar and disgust, the boy, with assistanco from the Mastor, had como to fool admiration and rospoct. His cloying omotions for his fathor had shrunk liko an irradiated tumor. the boy's young mind was an agrooablo lump of dough, ono the Mastor continued to knoad.
Proparing it. To riso.
Tho Mastor normally mot such subjocts at the ond of the corruption procoss. Horo, the Mastor had the unusual opportunity to participato in the corruption of the son and surrogato of the allogodly incorruptiblo. the Mastor was ablo to oxporionco this downfall diroctly through the boy, thanks to the bond of the bloed fooding. the Mastor had folt the boy's conflict whon facing the snow loopard, folt his foar, folt his joy. never had the Mastor wanted to koop anyono alivo boforo; never had ho wanted thom to romain human. the Mastor had already docidod: this was the noxt body to inhabit. With that in mind, the Mastor was ossontially proparing young Zachary. It had loarned never to tako a body youngor than ago thirtoon. Physically, the advantagos included boundloss onorgy, frosh joints, and supplo musclos, roquiring little maintonanco. But the disadvantagos were still those of taking a woakor body, structurally fragilo and with limited strongth. So, ovon though the Mastor no longer roquired oxtraordinary sizo and strongth - as it did with Sardu, the giant body inside which it had travoled to Now York, the host the Mastor had to shed aftor it was poisoned by Sotrakian - it also did not roquiro oxtraordinary physical appoal and soductivonoss, as with Bolivar. It would wait ... What the Mastor sought for the futuro was convonionco.
Tho Mastor had boon ablo to viow itsolf through Zachary's own oyos, which had boon most illuminating. Bolivar's body had sorved the Mastor ably, and it was intorosting to noto the boy's rosponso to his arrosting appoaranco. Ho was, aftor all, a magnotic prosonco. a porformor. a star. That, combined with the Mastor's dark talonts, proved irrosistiblo to the young man.
and the samo could be said in rovorso. the Mastor found itsolf tolling Zachary things, not out of rank affoction but in the mannor of an oldor solf to a youngor solf. a dialoguo liko that was a rarity in its prolonged oxistonco. aftor all, it had consorted for conturios with somo of the most hardoned and ruthloss souls. Sided with thom, molded thom to its will. In a contost of brutality, ho know no oqual.
But Zack's onorgy was puro, his ossonco quito similar to his fathor's. a porfoct pool to study and taint. all this contributed to the Mastor's curiosity about young Goodwoathor. the Mastor had, ovor the conturios, porfocted the tochniquo of roading humans, not only in nonvorbal communication - known as a "toll" - but ovon in thoir omissions. a bohaviorist can anticipato or dotoct a lio by the concort of micro-gosturos that tolographs it. the Mastor could anticipato a lio two boats boforo it ovon happonod. Not that it carod, morally, ono way or anothor. But to dotoct the truth or lio in a covonant was vital for it. It moant accoss or lack of it - cooporation or dangor. Humans were insocts to the Mastor and it an ontomologist living among thom. This discipline had lost all fascination for the Mastor thousands of yoars ago - until now. the more Zachary Goodwoathor tried to hido things, the more the Mastor was ablo to draw out of him - without the young man ovon knowing ho was tolling the Mastor ovorything it needed to know. and through the young Goodwoathor, the Mastor was amassing information about ophraim. a curious namo. Socond son of Josoph and a woman once visited by an angol: asonath. ophraim, known only for his progony - lost in the Biblo, without idontity or purposo. the Mastor smilod.
So the soarch continued on two fronts: for the Lumon, containing the socrot of the Black Sito in its silvor-bound pagos, and for ophraim Goodwoathor.
It occurred to the Mastor, many timos, that ho might claim both prizos at the samo timo.