“We watch. And we are always here.”
The Talamasca (Animal Mask) is a secretive group who loosely refer to themselves as “psychic detectives.” On the surface, the water seems calm; the Talamasca appear to be nothing more threatening than a gaggle of dusty librarians and antiquarians, led by some rather wealthy men and women, who occasionally go hunting for treasure, artefacts, and evidence of the supernatural. But as the world of Anne Rice’s novels turns, we start to see that there is much more to them, some of it bright and altruistic.
Most of it deep and dark.
The Talamasca is an organisation deeply shrouded in mystery. There is no clear indication of where it came from. There are hints, rumours, speculation, but no clarity. What we do know is that it has been in existence for thousands of years, it has countless vaults housing countless supernatural trinkets of sentiment, and its members answer to the elders. There has never been an explanation for the presence of the elders. Who are they? Are they mortal? Probably not. But that opens another door which the reader should be terrified to see behind… If the elders are not human, what are they?
The first clear appearance of The Talamasca was in The Queen of the Damned with the introduction to the tale of Jesse Reeves. In Jesse’s story we discovered a nurturing side to the Talamasca. An organisation which seeks out people with some semblance of psychic ability, orphans in a supernatural world, and fosters this talent in these foundlings. The Talamasca approached Jesse and granted her, with her telepathic abilities, a clear purpose; through assignments and tasks intended to increase their database of information on supernatural beings.
Unfortunately, Jesse’s story, and her destiny, was also the catalyst which began a chain of events devolving into a ‘cold war’ between the Talamasca and the vampires. More specifically, between the organisation’s pride and the vampire Lestat.
Lestat has no qualms about being the most recognised and loved (or hated, depending on one’s perspective) member of the coven. Thanks to this little character quirk, regardless of how it occurred – of what happened to Jesse – and because he is at the forefront of everything, Lestat takes the blame. He chose to be a rock star, which caused Jesse to go looking for evidence that vampires exist, which then caused her death and her subsequent change into a vampire, and he wrote the book which tells the story. Of course it is all his fault.
The next member of the Talamasca to fall to the machinations of the vampiric defiance over death is David Talbot. We know David’s story. We know that he chose to leave the Talamasca with the death of his old body and live his life as a young man. But this was not to be. Lestat had designs set upon him and no one was going to change his course of action. David’s close friends suspected the truth and all the rest had to be rumour, but whatever the case, the Talamasca knew that Lestat had something to do with the loss of its Superior General. This was a second strike against his name.
Finally, the last straw for the Talamasca, came with the loss of one of their most powerful witches, Merrick Mayfair. Once again, one cannot distinctly lay the blame on Lestat. In fact, if anything, it was Merrick’s doing from the beginning. But that is the burden of being a beloved fiend. When you do good, you get minimal praise, and when you behave inappropriately, or even seem to, your rivals will try to squash you with the repercussions of your own actions. Lestat was not responsible for Merrick’s ‘death,’ but this was of no consequence in the decision made by the Talamasca to send him an ultimatum, a declaration of ill-will.
It would seem, from the Vampire Chronicles, that their passivism does have its limits. Or perhaps their pride had just become irked by the tranquil manner in which their members seemed to be being picked off.
Still further insight is granted to us in the trilogy, The Lives of the Mayfair Witches. Whilst the vampires are of concern to the Talamasca, the witches are somewhat more of a burden. They are highly dangerous due to their history with the spirit of a Taltos: Lasher. More importantly, they are dangerous because of what they can do when this spirit obeys them.
The greatest danger for their organisation, however, comes after the death of Lasher, when the Taltos have been documented and filed. When their own members turn against them to uncover more about this extinct race of people and try to create more.
There is darkness with the Talamasca, a darkness which is borne from a desire for knowledge and gain; to further oneself within its ranks at all costs. This greed drives the actions which lead to the death of Aaron Lightner. And still further darkness is made apparent to the reader as those responsible for betraying their own are brought forward.
The Talamasca is above the law; it is its own law. And its justice is secretive, non-negotiable, and unforgiving. It is easy to recall the pit that Tommy and Marklin are shoved into in Taltos once their plot has been uncovered. And also the old bones down that shaft; the fact that the members responsible for putting them down there do not care that Tommy dies in the fall, that Marklin soon will be dead too. That was, after all, the intention. The desire to see the traitors dead for what they did to their ‘family.’ The question one should ask is, how many times has their justice gone by unnoticed by the world outside of their insular society?
And the answer is simple. With the money and power that the Talamasca possesses, why should anything else be the case? They protect their secrets. And if a member within their faction is found to be of treacherous nature, no amount of money and political sway will defend them against the ultimate justice of their peers. There will be no trial.
These questions have not yet been answered for us, but we can only hope that, in the future, things will be made clear with further publications. Even if we never receive the answers, though, this will only serve to further the purpose of the Talamasca. It is a force that is meant to be secretive, quiet, and insular. The lack of information on the Talamasca is all the explanation that the reader really needs.
Although, I have to admit, I am dying to know what it is with Talamasca members and bees.