The Crystal Prison | Chapter 14 & Epilogue

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I did love ‘ee, Aud,’ he whispered.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: The theme from Akkikuyu’s persuasive duet with Nettle is picked up again for the stealthy cornering of Alison. The low, malevolent motif of Nicodemus rises to a fearsome bellow as he announces himself to his helpless and horror-struck sacrifice.

Now Nicodemus has his villainous solo, his ‘soothing and repellent’ voice echoing and rumbling, becoming increasingly familiar. Fire flares, shadows loom large, a ghostly chorus moans from the gloom. Lightning cracks in lurid colour on the horizon, drums boom with approaching thunder. The sky churns and broils, the corn bends in the howling wind.

At last, the truth of Akkikuyu’s ‘secret voice’ is revealed. His insidious pretence cast aside, Jupiter, Lord of All, calls upon Rameth and Ozulmunn, Arash and Iriel to unbind his wrathful spirit from the void. In a scene of desperate horror, Alison is ushered toward her doom, and Akkikuyu begins to transform. Finally, among the tumult, Akkikuyu’s defiance rings out. Her last song is a hoarse and despairing reprise of ‘Summer Light’, abruptly cut off when she gives herself to the flames, freed at last from Jupiter’s tyranny.

In the Hall of Corn, anxious murmurs grow to screams as the fire spreads. The chorus wavers and whines with the flames as Audrey pulls Nettle to safety. The Fennywolde theme, which first sounded when the Hall was being built, returns with a vengeance, mingling with Nettle’s ravings. In a crescendo of falling sparks and swirling smoke, Mr Woodruffe reaches his throne, only to be consumed.

The final scene is drab in palette, disquieting in tone. Far off, the faint voices of mousemaids can be heard trilling ‘The Witch’s Water’ over the clatter of bare, wintry branches. Blue-violet shadows blanket Alison as she murmurs to Akkikuyu’s discarded crystal. As it smashes in the ditch, a silvery note like a clear bell sounds in the gathering darkness. Jupiter’s sibilant laughter fills the air. He is as mighty as his mythological namesake, and the nightmare of his reign is not over yet.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: One fascinating historical fact that I discovered while reading this book was how rubbish the exchange rate used to be back in 2001. (Or else how much bookshops would gouge you!). The recommended retail on the back of my silver-spine edition of Crystal Prison was £5.99 and yet I found the docket dated November 2001 in which I paid AUD$16.95 – nearly three times as much! (The exchange rate currently is just short of twice – so £1 is roughly AUD$2.)

Anyway, enough of that financial outrage.

Because, of course, the real outrage is that The World’s Most Evil Cat is back. (Back from where is an interesting question as well. From the hints we get, it sounds like he’s done a deal with some back-door guard demons in Hell to slip him out, as long as the overall population count doesn’t change. And the phrase ‘father of lies’ has that epic Biblical ring to it, quite possibly because – whether consciously or otherwise – it is an echo of the description of Satan from John 8:44: ‘He is a liar and the father of lies.’ Actually, Jupiter was also described as his Most High Satanic Majesty in The Dark Portal from memory, so the whole thing is very much on theme.)

But ultimately I think what makes this finale and this book such a step up from Portal is the sheer level of adult emotions that it forces you to deal with. In Portal, yes, there were violent rats, and black magic and the Black Plague, but these things caused more physical damage. But now in The Crystal Prison, alongside the physical violence wreaked by that creepy corn dolly, we’ve got psychic damage being done.

When Jupiter was dispatched in Book 1, there was a collective sigh of relief and everyone went home happy. But there is no happiness this time. Twit and Audrey are married, but neither of them will be happy. Mr Woodruffe saved everyone but lost his life doing so. Audrey and Arthur are returning home, thus severing their ties with Fennywolde. And Madame Akkikuyu shows her affection for Audrey, but loses her life in doing so.

In short, the cost is pretty high for the peace that has been won. And so it ends with that ultra-moving sentence: ‘But although they both vowed to return one day, neither ever saw the land of Fenny again.’ Which is also a nice echo of a passage in The Lord of the Rings, right at the tail end of Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 6, where Aragorn is looking around with Frodo. The line runs:

‘Here is the heart of Elvendom on earth,’ he said, ‘and here my heart dwells ever, unless there be a light beyond the dark roads that we still must tread, you and I. Come with me!’ And taking Frodo’s hand in his, he left the hill of Cerin Amroth and came there never again as living man.

And then, of course, the peace lasts all of two pages of the epilogue until the meaning of the phrase ‘crystal prison’ becomes apparent. And so that sets us up nicely for the mother of all finales: The Final Reckoning. See you in March!  

P.S. Actually, there is one more thing. I mentioned a while back that I thought the name ‘Nicodemus’ was darkly brilliant. I didn’t want to spoil things at the time, but now that you all know the final twist, I do wonder whether Jupiter picked his tattoo name as a reference to the Pharisee named Nicodemus who snuck out to see Jesus in the middle of the night in John chapter 3. Jesus tells him that to see the kingdom of God, he must be ‘born again’.

Given the regular Satanic overtones that are ascribed to Jupiter, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he secretly enjoyed taking the name Nicodemus, knowing that he was going to put his own  dark spin on being ‘born again’ with the help of Akkikuyu.

Messed up, right?

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23 thoughts on “The Crystal Prison | Chapter 14 & Epilogue

  1. Aufwader: Bravo, my lady! Bravo! You should write books and become a published author! I wish I could write with even half the talent you just shared with us! Actually, a fraction would be enough to satisfy me!

    Matt: Now that does put an intriguing spin on Jupiter choosing to call himself Nicodemus! I never knew that the name had Biblical connotations at all! When you mentioned that you found it an interesting name for Jupiter to give himself, I thought you were making a reference to the Nicodemus from Secret Of Nimh! You know, the rat who was a kindly sage which is precisely what Jupiter tries to come across as when manipulating Akkikuyu?

    Mr Jarvis…did you write this book just for me?

    A weird question to ask since we’ve never met. But as I make my way through the grand finale of The Crystal Prison, there were so many moments where I had no choice but to put the book down and take a deep breath before I could go on. So many feelings were stirred and they had the bite of a mousepeeler slicing through me. You made me care about what becomes of a bunch of mice (and a rat) so much that this chapter has the power to hurt me deeply. And it does. Again and again.

    The Crystal Prison ends. Not with an army of justice standing tall and proud against a legion of darkest evil, not with the clash of steel ringing out as swords are drawn and glorious battle is joined. It ends with a heartbroken, furious, vengeful girl being told what she wants to hear by a woman with the mind of a child and lured into a trap that may cost her her soul. It ends with the seemingly harmless fire beneath a cauldron growing to become an inferno that consumes every last inch of a golden kingdom. And it is so beyond epic that I’m fumbling for words to do it justice.

    The stage for this drama is set when Akkikuyu approaches Alison Sedge and weaves another fateful lie: that the only reason she came to Audrey’s rescue is because hanging is too good for the mouse maid. She says that Audrey put a spell on Jenkin and lured him to his death at the claws of Mahoot. And just like Isaac, Alison believes it without question.

    Blinded by grief and fury, the former belle of Fennywolde rushes into the trap which has been laid for her. Soon the mouse maid and the rat woman are standing beside a cauldron within a ring of stones which is never a place you want to find yourself in a story where magic is a thing that really exists. But Alison is not thinking clearly, consumed as she is with her screaming desire to hurt Audrey just as deeply as she herself has been hurt.

    And the moment Nicodemus has awaited for so long has finally come. The moment for him to be liberated from his prison and for all masks to be stripped away forever. Thus the self-proclaimed spirit of nature reveals his true identity to a horrified Akkikuyu.

    Jupiter, Lord Of All.

    Yep. You read that right, my fellow Mouseketeers.

    The big J is back and he is so thirsty for revenge that the tattooed mouth practically slobbers.

    This revelation could not possibly be more awesome. Remember when Akkikuyu approached him in Book One and pledged her crystal to his service? Jupiter was not messing around when he accepted the fortune-teller’s offer.
    From the prologue of the book, we were shown conclusive evidence that Jupiter was dead. We had seen him drown and now we witnessed his lifeless carcass shrivel up and disappear in the flames. The book was telling us that this bad kitty was gone forever. The story even moved from the grim and gritty environment of Book One to a place that could not possibly be more different from Deptford. Come on, everyone. How could we possibly dwell on the matter of a downfallen God amidst the healthy fresh air and sunshine of Fennywolde?

    But now we discover that that was what our esteemed author wanted us to think.

    All this time, darkness has been lurking in the light of day.

    Jupiter was never gone for true evil cannot be destroyed so easily.

    His unholy spirit has been waiting for its time to come.

    And now the stage trembles as he makes a terrifying reappearance.

    Believe me, he intends to savor this.

    I hate Jupiter.

    Perhaps more than I’ve hated any other villain. He robbed Audrey of her loving father and as if that was not evil enough, now he continues to haunt the poor girl from beyond the grave. I’m reminded of the story of Job only instead of a God who tests her resolve, Audrey has been tormented by an evil spirit who wants her to suffer and then die in agony once he’s done playing with her.

    Hodge, Young Whortle, Jenkin…so many lives he has crumpled up in his merciless claw and thrown away like trash. Now Alison Sedge is to be his latest victim and as she weeps for mercy, his only answer to her tears is cruel laughter.

    And what of Akkikuyu who had finally found the peace and joy she sought during her entire life? Jupiter used her, lied to her, made her feel utterly worthless. And now that he no longer needs her, the evil one won’t even allow his victim to live happily ever after. He wants to send her hurtling over the precipice of madness before his spirit claims her body as its own and his malicious glee burns hotter than the fire beneath as the cauldron as he gives her that final push.

    Why? Why is he so mean? What has got to break inside a person for them to become so twisted with hatred for all other creatures?

    Jupiter wanted to unleash the black death upon the unsuspecting world and he relished that prospect just as much as he enjoys destroying Akkikuyu’s life.

    He delights in hurting others. He’s a bully. He’s evil in its purest form.

    Why could this monster not have remained slain?

    Why could Audrey Brown and Akkikuyu not live out their days in peace?

    Because that would make them happy and he would never dream of allowing it to happen.

    I hate Jupiter.

    And that’s why he has to go down. Because as long as his evil endures, nobody’s life will be worth living.

    Another moment of dread comes as poor tortured Akkikuyu finally realises who she’s been talking to all this time. The Starwife warned Audrey that she must never say Jupiter’s name in Akkikuyu’s presence because the memory of that horror could surely destroy what remained of her mind completely. The Starwife is wise.

    But The Starwife was wrong. The floodgates of hideous truth are opened and yet Akkikuyu is not swept away by the pure terror which they unleash upon her. She looks at Alison and sees the face of Audrey Brown. The one who has always been her brightly burning candle in the darkness. Her mouselet.

    And she does not give in. Because what she has come to learn during her time in Fennywolde is that she is not darkness, no mere shadow under Jupiter’s thrall. She is light, stronger than anything this beast can say or do to her. She may have only one life but she will gladly give it up to protect Audrey from him.

    And she does. Akkikuyu hurls herself into the fire, leaving Jupiter to howl with rage as what was meant to be his new body withers and disappears just like the old one. Whatever happens next, the rat has ensured he will never stalk this earth clad in flesh again.

    As the God’s wrath spills over, a thousand things begin happening all at once.

    Fennywolde becomes wreathed in flame.

    The recent mistrust between the field-mice and the guests from Deptford is swiftly forgotten.

    United in the face of this calamity, they run for their lives.

    Twit, he whom they scorned as the mouse with no cheese upstairs, is the one who leads his people to safety.

    Mr Woodruffe becomes trapped in the Hall Of Corn and like the captain of a sinking ship, the noble king goes down with his kingdom.

    Isaac Nettle is so broken that he looks at the devouring flames and sees them as beautiful flowers.

    As Audrey struggles to drag the maddened mousebrass maker to safety, she is overcome by the choking smoke and faints clean away.

    And the rain begins to fall.

    You know…I don’t think I looked away from the pages for one moment as this awe-inspiring chain of events was playing out.

    The story had grown seething with so much unbearable tension. But at the moment when that first drop of rain falls and the hellish inferno is doused before it can spread and claim any more lives, I feel like I can breathe again at long last.

    What happened to the mice was awful. They have been chewed up and spat out. They are scarred for life by their ordeal. But they are going to survive. Because that’s just what mice do. What they always have done.

    And when it’s all over, Audrey and her brother must go home.

    There’s a place for everyone. Akkikuyu found that place in Fennywolde where she will sleep forever, surrounded by the peaceful beauty she was denied in life. But for Audrey, the place she calls home is Deptford and it is to Deptford she must now return.

    Hey, these books are known as The Deptford Mice trilogy. Not Little Mouse On The Prairie.

    As the field-mice gather to see brother and sister away on their journey home, Audrey bids goodbye to her husband. And…The Crystal Prison made me cry. Because I’ve been in the same place as Twit who must now watche as the woman he loves walks out of his life, perhaps forever. I know how deeply it hurts to be parted from someone you gave your heart to. There’s nothing quite like it.

    Damn you, Robin Jarvis.

    And thank you.

    You didn’t write this book just for me. You wrote it for everyone who has grown to love Audrey, Arthur, Twit and Madame Akkikuyu. And it is outstanding.

    Long may you live and continue to write.

    I’m left with a few questions as the story winds down.

    1) Was Jupiter at the bottom of the heatwave?

    At one point, a field-mouse groans that the hot weather feels unnatural. During the final chapter of The Dark Portal, the sewer tunnels grow so blisteringly hot that Audrey burns her feet simply by walking through them. Akkikuyu chalks the temperature up to Jupiter’s mood at the time but would that explanation make sense in the context of The Crystal Prison? Jupiter’s character arc in Book Two is that he’s a resident of house 666 in Hell and thus unable to work much magic unless Akkikuyu will consent to be his paws within the mortal plane.

    Would you like to know what I’ve come up with? When did the mice begin voicing complaints about the uncommon severity of the heat? Correct me if I’m wrong but I seem to remember that it was shortly after Jupiter and Akkikuyu’s first proper conversation with each other. When he persuaded her to repair the corn dolly and then summons Brud.
    Is the true culprit for the heatwave Brud? That would make so much sense, given that Jupiter exploits the heat in so many ways while he works to lay the ground for Audrey to be sacrificed. Firstly, the effect it has on the tempers of the field-mice makes them more malleable for his sinister purpose. Secondly, he uses it to trick Akkikuyu into casting the spell of rain-summoning so that corn dolly can hide within the resulting mist as it stalks Young Whortle and ultimately murders him.

    The heatwave and the killing spree both kick in after Brud is summoned. Perhaps he or she or whatever is a spirit of misery and misfortune that spreads evil like a disease with its mere presence. What do you think?

    2) What would have happened if Jupiter’s plan went off without a hitch and he successfully possessed Akkikuyu?

    My own answer would have to be “Nothing good.” Since he wouldn’t be cooped up in the crystal ball, there would be nothing to stop him from paying the mice a deadly visit.

    Among the local mice is none other than the girl who sent him plunging to his death. Why would the vengeful God pass up such a juicy opportunity for revenge? I have a feeling that the Hall Of Corn was doomed to burn down no matter what happened.

    But in this case, a terrifying shadow would loom over Audrey as she runs. Looking up, the mouse girl would behold upon a terrible sight that makes her eyes widen and her breath retreat in a gasp of pure horror.

    Either she has been driven mad by her ordeal or the entire world just plunged into insanity.

    How can it be him? He’s dead! She was there! She saw it happen with her own eyes!

    Jupiter grins hideously, leaning in close and speaking to Audrey in a mock-confidential whisper. “By the way…not dead. I was but I got over it.”

    Then he sucks in a deep breath and exhales in the face of the screaming mouse girl.

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  2. Darn! I really want to read ‘Little Mouse on the Prairie’!

    Well done everyone, another absolutely fascinating journey for me, reading all your comments and insights. I love Aufwader’s operatic approach to this. I can see just how it would work and, when I was writing it, I always had a certain voice in mind for Akkikuyu. Bertice Reading – a fantastic singer and actress, with a voice that could blow the roof off. A quick Google doesn’t come up with much that does her justice, but she is the old woman who sings the opening lines of ‘Skid Row’ in Little Shop of Horrors. Imagine her blasting out a duet with Nicodemus! In my head she did.

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    • A question! Is the plot which involves Audrey moving from Deptford to Fennywolde and having a terribly time trying to adapt to her new surroundings intended as a sly nod towards the story of The Countrymouse And The Townmouse? Is that where you drew inspiration for The Crystal Prison?

      What a journey the Deptford Mice have been through over the past month. A transformative experience in so many ways, for better and for worse. But isn’t that how life works for mice and men alike?

      I loved Little Shop Of Horrors! The voice of Audrey the meat-eating plant always made me laugh despite the huge threat which her voracious appetite posed our lovable hero!

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  3. Phew, what a finale this was, and we haven’t even got to the last book yet! On behalf of Matt and myself, thank you to everyone who has participated so far; your comments motivate us and keep us on our toes!

    Once again, Sir Robin, we are glad to entertain you with our speculation. I actually love Little Shop of Horrors, and I can totally see Bertice Reading in the role of Madame Akkikuyu. (Now I think about it, Nicodemus’s slimy promises to Akkikuyu in exchange for bloodshed remind me of Audrey II and Seymour rather).

    Matt: I knew that Nicodemus was a Biblical name and another title for Satan, but I did not know about the ‘born again’ aspect. Now that is disturbing! It adds a whole other layer to Jupiter’s outlook and motivations (please someone remind me to come back to this when we start the Histories).

    Aron: Thank you again for your kind words, it means more than I can say and I’m very touched. I’ve tried to give my best on this project so far, and I hope I can continue to do so in the months ahead. Also, I didn’t think about Jupiter being responsible for the heatwave, but you may be right. What an interesting spin on things!

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    • You deserve all the praise I can heap upon you, Aufwader. You have gone above and beyond in your contributions to the grand Robin Jarvis (re)read, making the experience truly magical for your fellow Mouseketeers! I’m excited to find out what you’ll do with the epic conclusion to the trilogy! Just think of all that juicy material for you to work with!

      One of the best aspects of Myth and Sacrifice has been reading the thoughts of other Deptford Mice fans and sharing my own thoughts in turn! So many insights and unique opinions on the story and the world it takes place in have been whizzing back and forth! I can’t get enough of them! By the way, I’m planning to write up some more thoughts to be posted on Beyond The Silvering Sea in a few days!

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      • I got your headcanons, Aron, all shipshape and Greenwich fashion. They’re really quite brilliant (apart from certain blasphemies in the first one russssssmfrusm) and they’ll be staggered over next week.

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  4. AAAAND we’ve reached the end!!! Twit admitting he truly did love Audrey came as a total surprise to me as a kid, but having reread this a few times since, it becomes more and more obvious! I wish Twit so much happiness, but since twinkle in his eye has left “for ever”, I don’t have high hopes!

    Now, to commemorate the ending of The Crystal Prison, I’ve reuploaded some of my fanmixes to playmoss! Feel free to take a listen if that’s your thing.

    Alison/Jenkin: https://playmoss.com/en/starmaid/playlist/you-make-my-sun-shine
    Audrey/Twit: https://playmoss.com/en/starmaid/playlist/i-wanna-hold-your-hand

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I echo Aufwader: it’s been a fantastic month and fascinating to see everyone’s reaction to the chapters.

    Take a couple of days to catch your breath because we all have to steel ourselves up for the traumatic ordeal that is The Final Reckoning …

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  6. Poor Alison. How the proud and beautiful mouse maid hath fallen. She was a minx and that’s putting it in the mildest possible terms but nobody deserves to suffer such a terrible fate. Certainly not the impish Miss Sedge. What a waste. What a lousy, freaking waste.

    By the way, notice the eerie similarity between how The Crystal Prison starts and how it ends?

    The story begins with a rat driven mad by a recent trauma.

    In her possession is a crystal ball. She spends hours brooding over this thing. Why she would have something like this, she cannot understand. But she knows in her heart that it is important.

    The story ends with a mouse whose mind has wandered after she suffered a terrible loss.

    She is turning a soot-coated ball over and over in her paws. She knows that there is something important about this strange, blackened ball. She cannot put her finger on what. But she knows it in her heart.

    The story has come full circle in the creepiest way possible.

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  7. You raised one Hell of a question, Matt. With a particular emphasis laid upon the word ‘Hell’. Where DO Satanic kitty-cats go when mousebrasses blow up in their faces and they drown? Is there some kind of afterlife reserved for all evil animals or does each species have their own?

    If Alison was going to take Jupiter’s place in Cat Hades, then wow. That paints quite a horrifying picture of her fate when you stop and think about it. She would be the only mouse in a dimension populated wholly by the wickedest cats who ever died.

    Theirs to play with for all eternity.

    By the Green Mouse…

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  8. Another thought. Does Audrey ever find out that Jupiter was involved in what she went through?

    Alison screams to the entire field about how Akkikuyu had been working for a devil but it goes unconfirmed whether our heroine puts two and two together, realizing that the devil in question was none other than her own personal demon. From her point of view, she simply went to stay in the countryside and had the worst Summer ever. And then she went home and none of the incredibly creepy stuff that went down ever received a satisfying explanation.

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    • That has crossed my mind before too. Everything is revealed to the reader, and yet Audrey had no way of knowing that Jupiter was behind everything. If Alison had given any further details, then certainly finding the crystal ball and ensuring it was never broken would have been a major priority.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re telling me! If Audrey had gone to Alison and asked for the whole story about what happened, they could have tracked that infernal thing down, locked it away where no-one could ever reach it again and then struck up an awesome friendship. As I said before, Audrey and Alison would have lots to bond over in the wake of this horrific season. They could have been such great friends…

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  9. Oh Priestess of the unknowable darkness, please show mercy upon my unworthy soul for the ill-conceived blasphemy I hath wrought! (Oh man, I can barely wait until we get around to The Deptford Histories! By the way, I love the tag you used for the headcanon on Beyond The Silvering Sea! Seeing that brought laughter bubbling to my lips!)

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  10. One thing I forgot to mention is how remarkably forgiving Audrey shows herself to be in the wake of everything that went down. Practically every mouse in Fennywolde was looking forward to seeing her dance at the end of noose and she’s still willing to forgive them. If a whole community wanted me dead, there’s no way I would accept their most profuse apologies even if their homes were burned to the ground immediately afterward. Audrey really is a better mouse than me.

    I have my reasons for bringing this up even though we have survived The Crystal Prison and are days away from preparing ourselves to face The Final Reckoning. Those reasons shall be revealed in good time.

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