Warning: Contains Spoilers!
It was at times like these, when the peace and beauty of Fennywolde were overpowering, that she thought it might not be so bad to spend the rest of her days there.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I may have sided with Audrey over the potions last chapter, but her rebuttal of Akkikuyu here is rather more selfish and cannot really be overlooked. It’s testament to Audrey’s fundamentally good heart that she instantly feels terrible for rejecting Akkikuyu, but her regret doesn’t excuse her refusal to at least practice some patience when Akkikuyu is clearly suffering.
All of this is grist for the mill of Audrey’s character, however. As we saw in The Dark Portal, she is not completely sweet-natured, accommodating, and thoughtful. She can be, but if she were only those things, she would not be Audrey at all, nor indeed a particularly realistic character.
Then we’ve got Akkikuyu and Nicodemus. Holy gosh darn golly gee did this scene horrify me as a child! I hated frightening faces for a start, and there’s something about the reveal that the voice is actually coming from the tattoo on Akkikuyu’s ear that’s just so intimately abhorrent that it makes me shudder. There’s no way out for her, she and the insidious voice are joined together permanently. Visceral horror at its finest!
In that scene we also get another occult incantation, almost a mirror of the one which takes place between Jupiter and Morgan on Blackheath in Chapter 10 of The Dark Portal. Though not quite as cataclysmic as the Blackheath ritual, this one is certainly unnerving in its execution and effects. Why should Nicodemus, a benign spirit of nature, feel the need to invoke ‘slaughterous cold and searing ice’? Why does he alternately berate and beguile Akkikuyu? And why does the corn dolly require blood to be brought to life?
Finally, on reread, I noticed that during the incantation to join the corn dolly back together, Nicodemus has Akkikuyu call upon Brud to ‘make whole again your effigy.’ Being aware that Robin loves to reference history and folklore in his naming conventions, I had a rummage around Google to see whether the mysterious Brud might be a fictionalisation of a folkloric spirit or deity. Sadly I didn’t find anything exact – the closest I could get was Brigid (Braid, Brìde), an Irish/British pagan goddess for whom corn figures were (and are) woven during her festival in early February. If anybody has further knowledge on this subject (or if Mr Jarvis himself would like to wade in) that would be fantastic.
Matt’s Thoughts: And there it is – that turning point. That moment where Audrey’s compassion falters for a moment. And that moment is all it takes. It’s that familiar Jarvis moment: the ‘Uh oh’. The ‘no, no, no’. The ‘this is going to get a lot worse’.
It’s one of the oldest clichés in the book, in many respects: Person A is unkind to Person B. Person B goes off and triggers off a whole mess of trouble which they otherwise wouldn’t have done. But clichés work because they tap into universal experiences. We’ve all had a moment in the past where we were more unkind to someone than we should have been. We wonder what it might have been like if we could go back and do things differently.
That said, we possibly didn’t have the person we were unkind to stalk off and have devious conversations with a tattoo on their ear …
The naming of this character, by the way – Nicodemus – is also a darkly brilliant choice, but I might come back to that topic at a later stage. For now, I’ll just let the dread start to sink in …