The Crystal Prison | Chapter 13

dm2

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Audrey tearfully thought of Piccadilly. Sobbing she uttered, ‘I do.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I absolutely love the two-part ending that is this chapter and the next. They’re like the dramatic finale of a stage musical or an opera, and I see them in those terms.

In this chapter, we begin with a sinister duet between Isaac Nettle and Madame Akkikuyu. At the behest of Nicodemus, she persuades Nettle to create a sign of loathing and vengeance in his cramped and airless forge. Cellos hum in time with Nicodemus’s sly instructions in Akkikuyu’s ear. Drums pound with the fall of Nettle’s hammer, his earlier hymns to the Green reprised in verses of grief and fury.

Alison Sedge’s high, terrified alarm is echoed by the fraught whine of the strings as the corn dolly appears and threatens the mice. When it falls lifeless before Audrey, the music ceases completely in an instant of charged hush.

The Fennywolders sing in threatening chorus; Isaac Nettle’s menacing baritone delivers their ultimatum. Frantic strings delineate the horror of what is about to take place.  Over them all soars Audrey’s heartbreaking plea for mercy. Finally, Twit comes in with a small but strong voice to save her from the noose, reprising the theme of his solo song ‘In Olde Fennywolde’, green sparks flashing where he treads.

Twit and Audrey join in lamenting but courageous chorus as Nettle marries them before the hanging tree. The lights dim, and Akkikuyu is revealed in garish spotlight. Nicodemus’ cello returns, darker and deeper. Nearby, Alison’s discarded mousebrass sparkles invitingly.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter is such utter genius. If you look at some other love triangles –  I’m thinking the cinematic versions of Lord of the Rings and Hunger Games, for instance – inevitably the person at the centre of the triangle has to hit some point where they have to choose one or the other. (Or even LOST, for that matter, but not sure if there’s an overlap between Jarvis fans and LOST watchers.) Which then gets problematic very fast, because without fail, half the readership/viewership liked Person A, the other half liked Person B and no matter which way it pans out, somebody will be annoyed with the author.

But this setup is brilliant because of the inevitability of how it all works. Whatever Audrey might have felt for Piccadilly (and vice versa), she must marry Twit or perish. And so Audrey is broken-hearted because she loved Dilly-O. Twit is broken-hearted because he really does love Audrey. But we’re not really angry with any of it, because how else could it go under the circumstances?

So, in one chapter, everyone has been doomed to a relatively loveless future … Ah, you British! You’re such a melancholy group. I’m sure no American would write a chapter like this! Anyway, I’ll try to keep stiff upper lip about all this but it’s a struggle, people!

The only highlight to this otherwise devastating chapter is the awesome display of defiance that Madame Akkikuyu makes against Nicodemus. But will it last? (I actually can’t remember exactly what happens in chapter 14, so that is a real question I have. See you after the grand finale!)

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11 thoughts on “The Crystal Prison | Chapter 13

  1. I’ve always loved your writing, Aufwader! Your captivating summary for what goes down in this chapter is so beautiful and lyrical that it strikes me as poetic! I feel as though I’m actually reading the stage directions for a play written by a professional! Do you have a background in theater work?

    Ha, ha, haaaa! You may be right, Matt! If The Crystal Prison were to fall into the hands of a Hollywood screenwriter, this is where Piccadilly would make a dramatic return and offer his paw to Audrey in Twit’s place! Bringing his lips to her ear, the grey mouse would reveal in an earnest whisper that he changed his mind about leaving and followed the Deptford Mice to Fennywolde on foot. Audrey would gaze at him, stunned. When she asks him why he would walk all so far, Piccadilly’s eyes would twinkle and Audrey would understand. Their lips would meet in an epic kiss as the fieldmice (who were baying for Audrey’s blood mere moments before) clap and cheer for the two reunited lovers! Which would make the die-hard Audrey/Piccadilly shipper deep down inside me swoon with joy. But let’s face it, this story would not be The Crystal Prison if that was the way it ended, now would it?

    Chapter Thirteen of The Crystal Prison may not be the endgame of this gripping story. That is still to come. But even if the wicked Nicodemus was not still waiting in the wings, this chapter would feel like a finale in its own right. So many plot threads which have been unfurling throughout the book now converge as vengeful fury is kindled and a prophecy spoken of long ago finally comes true. What we see emerge from the climax of the drama in Fennywolde is a tragic denouement for both Twit Scuttle and Audrey Brown.

    Ahhh, but Audrey shall no longer bear the name of Brown when the picture of her woe reveals itself to us in all its melancholy beauty. Shall we?

    Three cheers for Twit who succeeds where Arthur failed and solves the riddle he was given by those riddling bats, Orfeo and Eldritch! You see, Arthur? This is how it’s done! Pay close attention to young William Scuttle because this mouse is going places! What a chilling moment it is when the field-mouse realizes that the untame breed he was warned about so ominously are none other than his own people! The Fennywolders were so jolly and welcoming when the Deptford Mice arrived in their midst but since then we have seen just how easily the milk of kindness can grow sour!

    Even before the accusation of witchcraft is uttered, I want nothing more than to sweep Audrey off her feet and carry her someplace far away from the hellhole Fennywolde has become. The poor thing is so forlorn, listening to the hateful voices of the field-mice who now blame her for every misfortune that has befallen them since Summer began. It breaks my heart to picture the mouse girl as she lies curled up in bed, her eyes shut, trying to block out the nightmarish situation she’s in.

    Audrey’s ostracism within the fieldmouse community has such unnerving parallels with the cruel ways we have been known to treat our own neighbours. If she was a human girl, how much are you willing to bet she would discover the word ‘Murderer’ spray painted on the wall of her house? Oh my gosh! The Fennywolders know where she sleeps and it’s not like she can lock her bedroom door at night because she doesn’t have one! Scary as heck! All of a sudden, this charming tree-house village has become as menacing as a council estate! Who could find it in their heart to blame Audrey for wishing she could go home to her mother? I want Audrey’s mum too…

    In a moving moment, Akkikuyu enters the mousebrass forge to offer comfort to Isaac Nettle. During the chapters leading up to the hellish events which are fated to play out, Isaac has been akin to a stone gargoyle. Untouchable by any feeling besides the hostility etched into his harsh features. But that impervious face now crumbles and he breaks down in the rat woman’s arms, weeping for the son he has lost. I’m angry about the things he’s done and what he will go on to do before the chapter is over. But in this moment, my eyes are opened and I’m free to see Isaac as he truly is. No monster. A victim of the losses he has endured throughout his life. Like Akkikuyu, the only person in the entire field who dared even consider approaching him in his time of grief, he is not evil but deeply damaged.

    Yet this seemingly sweet conversation is laced with an undercurrent of horror. Akkikuyu has come to Isaac under the odious instruction of the voice whispering in her ear and what she tells the mousebrass maker about Audrey are poisonous words Nicodemus has coached her to say.

    Think about that for one moment. Nicodemus (who can be interpreted as Akkikuyu’s abusive stepfather) is forcing the rat to approach an authority figure and tell lies about Audrey (who can be interpreted as her mother figure). Story-wise, his motive for ensnaring Audrey is that the ritual to end his imprisonment requires the sacrifice of a mousemaid. Yet this is another one of those moments where you can strip away the supernatural elements and find yourself with something that would be so creepily plausible in real life. Forget Nicodemus being an otherworldly spirit who desires to escape from limbo and what we’ve got is one parent trying to get the other parent in trouble by coaching their child to tell lies about her.

    As part of Nico’s sick plot, Akkikuyu commissions Isaac to forge a mousebrass that symbolises hatred. Umm…if there has been no such mousebrass ever made, how would Isaac know what one looked like? Is he just winging it when he comes up with a design for this unique brass? Come to think of it, where do the mousebrass designs usually come from? Does each mousebrass maker have a book with dozens of designs recorded in it? Or do they swing the hammer and let the amulet take its own shape as their paw is guided by the Green Mouse’s will?

    The disharmony which spreads through Fennywolde has always remained clear in my memories of the book. The descriptions of friends and neighbors turning against each other are so short as to be terse and yet guaranteed to leave an everlasting impression upon the reader. Old Todmore screams at the poor children who only came to him for a story to take their minds off what’s going on. In another book, this guy would be the wise old man who everyone goes to for advice but this feels so much more regrettably real. I never liked Todmore because of the awful way he treated Twit as early as his cameo appearance in Book One but those children look up to him and he reacts so terribly by taking his anger and fear out on them.

    Then we have Josiah Down smashing up the family nest which…uuuugggghhhh. A little fact about me, I’ve always felt deeply uncomfortable with moments in TV shows and films when we see domestic strife. It consists of one sentence and there’s no dialogue to accompany it, but I can imagine the kids crying while their parents scream at each other. That is how much of an impact it has for me. The Crystal Prison has the power to unnerve you even in moments when nothing perilous is happening.

    Nicodemus must be biting his painted lip to hold back a wicked cackle as the dominoes he has set up with such care finally topple and Audrey finds herself in the paws of the Fennywolders who are screaming for her death. Some readers may find the destruction of the monstrous corn dolly to be rather anti-climactic, but I disagree. I find it so creepy how the thing goes limp and never moves again once Audrey has screamed for it to leave her alone, sealing her own fate. Nicodemus has no further need for Brud. The murders were never the point. Ensuring that the blame would fall on Audrey was what mattered. Spun from straw and now devoured by flames, the angel of death has served its purpose and the time has come for the feral Fennywolders to serve theirs. Just as planned.

    BUT THE CAREFULLY-LAID SCHEMES OF EARS THAT WHISPER OFTEN GO AWRY!

    As the maddened crowd bay for the innocent maid’s death, Twit breathes a sudden gasp. A memory has returned to him in this moment of pure despair. A memory of something he once heard and shrugged off as a cruel joke at his expense. “Witch husband…witch husband.” The words of Orfeo and Eldritch find a chord deep within the fieldmouse and strike it. William Scuttle know what he must do. And what follows is spine-tingling. Forcing his way through the crowd, he confronts Isaac Nettle with a look in his intense eyes not even the gorgon of Fennywolde can stand up to. With the eyes of every fieldmouse watching, the so-called fool claims the falsely accused witch as his bride.

    Twit is a hero in the true sense of the word. Those knights in armour who go forth and slay the dragon, then ride back to the castle and marry the princess as a reward for what they have done? They may be brave and strong but they are not what I’d call heroic. More like glory-seekers whereas what Twit does is outstandingly, breathtakingly, dazzlingly heroic.

    He does what nobody else dares and steps forward, going against the entire community which has closed its ranks against Audrey. He knows that if he goes through with this plan, he will be banished from the field he loves with all his heart. He knows that even if he saves her, Audrey will never love him. All of this, the tiny mouse knows, and he does it anyway. He speaks up, saves Audrey and loses Fennywolde simply because it is the right thing to do. Because Audrey is his friend and he would gladly lay down his life for her. Did I say three cheers for Twit earlier on? Scratch that! Changed of plans! ALL OF THEM! ALL THE CHEERS FOR TWIT, SAY I!

    Poor Audrey. Her heartbroken face in the illustration for this chapter says more than words ever could. Unlike Jenkin, Piccadilly is still alive but from the moment she says “I do.” and becomes Mrs Scuttle, the grey mouse may as well be in another world. Thanks to the quick-thinking and self-sacrifice of Twit, Audrey gets to keep her life but what she must give up in return is the future she might have had with Piccadilly. Audrey and Alison really do have more in common than they realize. Umm…it really isn’t too late for you girls to become friends. I’m just saying…

    By the way, this is the only picture featuring Isaac who cuts an imposing figure as he looms over Twit and Audrey. Am I the only reader who thinks he looks massive compared with the other mice? True, the newlyweds are kneeling down but it strikes me that the mousebrass maker would be a whole head and shoulders taller than them even if they were standing.

    Mr Woodruffe steps forward to give Twit his blessing but when nobody among the crowd will offer the same to Audrey, it seems as if the mouse girl will die after all. Then Akkikuyu approaches, leans in to kiss her forehead and you know everything is going to be okay.

    Because Akkikuyu has come full circle as a character within this book. No longer is she the rat who was not strong enough to forsake her wicked ways and start over. This time, she passes the test and chooses her mouselet rather than the chance for power over others. It matters not what a dark god or a spirit from another world can offer her. Having found love and acceptance among the Fennywolders, Akkikuyu has everything she has ever wanted. And besides, she likes Audrey so why would she want to see the mouselet hang? Who needs magic when you have friends? Oh my gosh, these mice and this rat are fantastic! The Crystal Prison is fantastic and makes me feel fantastic as I read it! Everything is fantastic!

    Say, Emmy Clarke! The time has finally come for me to speak my mind! Here’s the scoop! In the Deptford Mice stage-play, Twit was played by a girl! And I don’t mean that the actress was playing a male role! I mean that the script-writer literally changed William Scuttle into Winifred Scuttle! Remember when I asked oh-so innocently whether the Tinydog troup had planned to adapt The Crystal Prison after they were done with The Dark Portal? Well, this is why! At least one Deptford Mice fan out there has taken the idea of Twit-as-a-girl-mouse romancing Audrey and run with it! I swear, I saw a picture of her holding Audrey’s paw on dA!

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    • Thank you, Aron! I can’t claim to have any experience in theatre aside from a brief course in costume design, but I do love writing, and I’m pleased you enjoy reading what I write. Sir Robin’s work is sometimes so vivid that I get a bit carried away by the melodrama, and the finale of The Crystal Prison in particular is very theatrical, so I wanted to try to capture that as far as I was able.

      I had to laugh at your description of how this chapter might’ve gone had Piccadilly turned up in time to save the day. It’s testament to how captivating the actual Deptford Mice Trilogy is that what you described feels a lot like a parody. I can just see Parody Piccadilly, way more strapping and rakish than he really is, and Parody Audrey, a fainting damsel with an insipid blush and a giggle that makes everyone in the vicinity wince. Perhaps we ought to be thankful that no such version exists!

      Finally, yes, Twit is indeed Winifred Scuttle in the Tinydog production of The Deptford Mice. I’ll let Emmy weigh in on this, but on my end, the William/Winifred/Twit thing lead me to regard Twit as genderfluid, something I reference in my RP blog for them (inoldefennywolde.tumblr.com, sorry I can’t make hyperlinks in the comments) and hope to go into in more detail in future.

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      • Oh I do mean what I say, Aufwader. Completely and utterly. When it comes to your writing, I cannot tell a lie. Were I a mouse, the brass of utmost sincerity would dangle at my throat (which would preferably not be crushed by a claw spun from straw).

        And since I’m being so honest, I must admit that I devoted lots and lots and lots of time to dreaming up scenarios in which Piccadilly did follow his lady love to Fennywolde and swoop in to save her. Trust me when I say that Audrey was far from a damsel in distress in my fantasy although the grey mouse’s return did lead to their paws and hearts becoming inextricably linked!

        Gosh! My eye starts twitching in the oddest way as I try to imagine Audrey behaving like a swooning damsel in distress! Yes, yes…the power of imagination and all that but imagination can only take you so far, you know? If Piccadilly had come to Fennywolde, would the devil with the face of an angel AKA Alison Sedge have made a play for him? I can see it happening! I know that she would jump at the chance to make Jenkin jealous and Audrey boil with rage at the sight!

        Ha, ha, ha! I should have known that the Alternate Universe in which Momma and Poppa Scuttle had a daughter rather than a son would never slip past the Mouseketeers of Myth and Sacrifice! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Twit’s gender identity!

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    • Oh yes, I know about Winifred!! Such a great twist, and I wholeheartedly agree with Aufy’s genderfluid and/or agender Twit headcanon. I hope we get to see the musical one day!!

      As for the fan art, that may have been mine, actually. Or it may have been Aufy’s…? I’m not sure, but I did draw Winnie and Aud and put em on dA a couple of years ago! Lets see… was it this one? http://ysabelles.deviantart.com/art/Audrey-Winifred-Scuttle-480297614

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      • I don’t know if you’re aware of this but you can watch a video of some rehearsal footage on Tinydog Theater’s Youtube channel. It’s a clip of Thomas saving a grateful Winne from the beak of a feral seagull. Judging by some of the remarks the salty seamouse utters during his dramatic speech, the script-writer had read the prequel trilogy. That was cool in and of itself. And if they read Thomas then they also had to have read The Crystal Prison too. He or she must have known what they were doing when Twit was cast as a mouse maid, don’cha think?

        Gaaaasp! Do you mean to tell me it was you who drew that picture which made my heart melt like butter on a scorching day in Fennywolde? On behalf of the Deptford Mice fandom, I hereby praise you with great praise! We can never repay you enough for drawing Winnie and Audrey so amazingly! I mean, just look at them! They are so adorable together I can’t even! I just can’t!

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