The Final Reckoning | Chapter 3

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Hear me, you rats, have yer never ‘ad the blood craze? Have yer eyeballs never burned with hate for everything save yerselves?’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Why is it that the chapters where Morgan features heavily have ended up being my favourites so far? He isn’t quite as close to my heart as certain other despicable ne’er-do-wells I could mention, but he’s a big rat in a small race, and he knows what he’s about. If Jupiter showcased occult ritual as a Robiny villainous trademark in The Dark Portal, then Morgan demonstrates another here: the rousing speech of evil.

I get all gleeful over this. Enter the rats; more hideous, shifty-eyed fang-lickers than Smiff has seen in his entire life, all crowded in, all suspicious. They’ve been told that their options are turn up or die, and, obviously, most of them want to see another smoggy London morning. Enter Piccadilly and Marty; frightened but intrepid, observing from afar. Finally, enter Morgan; here to bring a little of that bad old Deptford bloodlust to the lilly-livered cringers this side of the Thames. The scene is set for a sermon of slaughter, and Old Stumpy does not disappoint.

Completely by accident, Matt chose my absolute favourite section of Morgan’s speech for this post’s quote, but I love all of it. Mr Jarvis’ villains always steal the show, and in sheer theatrical nefariousness, Morgan has few rivals. The imagery he conjures up is enough – the rats arising in might to begin a new era of carnage and cruelty, rivers of blood in the mouse halls – but when a well-meaning dissenter is ripped to shreds and devoured by his own brethren, things get real.

I compared the Deptford sewer rats favourably to the villains of Redwall when we were rereading The Dark Portal, and now I reiterate on that subject. Imagine Morgan’s speech in the mouth of any other befurred baddie from a middle-grade series. How much more threatening would their brutal hordes be? How much more terrifying their iniquitous plans? Get on Old Stumpy’s level, everybody, or go home!

 

Matt’s Thoughts: No time for any sort of set up or niceties here. The grimness is here to stay, as we go to a gathering of Old Stumpy and his group of rats. In some ways, it’s awesome – Morgan was arguably the greatest of the rat villains from The Dark Portal. So to see him and Piccadilly back in the same story, knowing that there is a score to settle from the past – that’s just brilliant.

However, it’s sort of the opposite of the mouse gathering from the previous chapter. It’s a meeting driven by hatred and a desire to dominate the mouse world. Grim stuff.

One other great thing about this is that we have no idea how Morgan came to such a position of influence. I’m sure there’s a back story: he dragged himself out of a drain pipe somewhere, bumped into five rats and killed four of them, and the rest of them started to show him a fearful respect. We’re not told exactly.

(Unless we’re told in a later chapter? I’ve got memories of certain parts of this book, but not others, so if we’re told in a later chapter, I’ll look like an idiot, won’t I? Actually, you know what – I’m going to hold onto my back story until Mr Jarvis gives me a new one. *End of inner monologue.*)

(*Start of new one* This is only going to get worse in Deathscent and the Wyrd Museum books because I bought them years ago and never actually got around to reading them … so my posts are going to be even more speculative and incorrect in a few months! *End of new inner monologue.*)

But enough of that – I haven’t had a moment to say I always quite liked the character of Barker here. The rats could be in danger of being a bit one-note (just sadistic and evil all the time) so having the odd rat that is not the same – like Madame Akkikuyu in the last few books – is always good. Barker fits that bill here – you wonder, if he wasn’t quite ‘barking mad’, as they call it, what would he be like? Would he be just as evil as the others? Or, like Akkikuyu before him, has madness brought out a lost ‘innocent’ side that might have otherwise been suppressed? (And, yes, for those who are jumping up and down – I do remember Barker’s back story. But we’ll talk about that when it appears.)

On to Chapter 4!

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9 thoughts on “The Final Reckoning | Chapter 3

  1. In Chapter Three of The Final Reckoning, Piccadilly boldly goes where no mouse of Holeborn has gone before. Deep into the heart of rat territory where a horrifying discovery awaits him. An old enemy has returned to haunt the grey mouse and threaten all he holds dear.

    The part where Smiff and Kelly trick Barker into handing over the chocolate bar which was the only food he had…that was so heartlessly cruel, I just lost it. I needed to close my eyes, take a deep cleansing breath and remind myself over and over that this is a Robin Jarvis book. Chances are, those two walking sores will get what’s coming to them before the final curtain descends upon what is proving to be the darkest book in the entire trilogy. Survival of the fittest is one thing but tormenting the old rat had nothing to do with them staying alive. The gruesome twosome make his daily misery so much worse purely for their own malicious entertainment. He’s so frail that the younger rats could have just taken the chocolate from him by force. Instead, they went that extra mile of cruelty by pretending to give him something much more healthy to eat in trade, then leaving him to discover it was nothing more than a joke at his expense. (It may come as a surprise to the reader that Barker is still alive, considering the situation we left him in during the previous chapter. Evidently, Smiff and Kelly were content to add to his collection of lumps rather than slaughter him. Why didn’t they, especially since he was leaking information to one of the mice when they came across him? Did Old Stumpy forbid them from harming one another? Given what happens during the rat moot, I wouldn’t be so sure about that…)

    This act of cruelty is so breath-taking that when Piccadilly hears its victim wailing mournfully, the mouse feels pity stab him in the heart even though he has no idea of the bleak scene which just unfolded. The moment when he approaches the old rat made me wonder how this scene would unfold as a stage play. I can picture it so clearly. Left to his misery by the other two rats, Barker would mutter his speech about how they will both rue their treatment of him someday. As the old rat chuckles and rubs his claws together in anticipation, Piccadilly enters from one side of the stage, sees Barker mumbling and gives the audience a quizzical glance before touching his mouth with one grey finger as a gesture for them to stay quiet and not give him away. Creeping up on him, Piccadilly taps Barker on the shoulder, resulting in a startled yowl as the rat jumps to his feet and spins around to face the new arrival with goggling eyes and an open mouth. Which is not quite how the reunion of the mouse and the rat plays out on page but it does strike me as rather theatrical.

    Piccadilly’s attempt to glean more information from Barker goes badly. The old rat is too terrified to give him the answers he seeks but lets slip that there are big secrets in dark places and he must not be late for an important meeting. Intrigued, Piccadilly and Marty slip after the old rat as silently as his own shadow. I’ve got to say that Piccadilly shocked me with the hardball way he questioned Barker. I can practically hear the tough guy voice he uses as he goes into interrogation mode. Much like his confrontation with Smiff and Kelly last chapter, it had a Batman kinda feel to it.

    Tailing Barker, the two mice leave the safety of their own territory further and further behind with every bend of the concrete tunnels. As the endless path twists and turns beneath their feet, curiosity swells within the reader. What is the purpose of the meeting Barker didn’t dare miss? Who is the mysterious newcomer responsible for inciting the local rats to attack the mice? As these questions go around and around in our heads like bees imprisoned in a jam jar, Piccadilly and Marty almost bump into Smiff and Kelly who have shown up again like the bad pennies they are. The two mice overhear Kelly fawning over an unseen figure whom he refers to as Boss. There’s only one person this can be. Old Stumpy. The leader of the rat uprising is right around the corner. So close that the strong taste in my mouth has got to be either excitement or fear of what will happen if the two mousy intruders are discovered.

    Crawling through a rusty old pipe, Piccadilly and his faithful sidekick discover that it ends in a hole overlooking the vast chamber where every rat in London stands waiting for the glorious leader of the revolution to come join them. As the one known as Old Stumpy appears and greets his loyal followers, a roar of welcome goes up like a wave of ocean water that crashes over Piccadilly. But the grey mouse barely notices the raucous applause. He stares in pure horror at the mastermind whose true identity has finally been revealed. Among the traumatic memories which have haunted Piccadilly since he returned home is the sneering face of a piebald rat who was supposed to be dead. It is this same rat who stands below with arms raised high, basking in the adulation of the horde he has amassed.

    Morgan escaped his watery grave before it could drag him down into its depths and has resurfaced in London. I guess it’s true, what they say. If you never find their body, the villain survived to do evil another day. And this villain is not only alive but in his blood-drenched element.

    Morgan gets the chance to prove himself a deadly threat even without Jupiter’s backing and oh my gosh, that speech is seared in my mind! As he calls out for the blood of innocent mice to stain the underground tunnels, you know that he fully believes in what he’s saying, that he revels in dealing out death to those who are smaller and weaker than himself and wants the other rats to be just like him! To me, Morgan feels like a distorted reflection of Isaac Nettle. Although the mousebrass maker was hardly a bloodthirsty maniac, the rat preaches for the rats to slaughter the mice who have walked all over them with a passionate belief that feels eerily similar to when Isaac was raging against the maker-of-dolls who had come to sully the purity of Fennywolde. Hate is hate, no matter if a rat or mouse spews it. It feels as if we are witnessing the birth of a new religion. One dedicated not to The Lord Of All or The Mighty Three but to the primal savagery of tooth and claw, the joy of killing. If this book was a musical, Morgan would surely break into a song by that name, sweeping his claws through the air and baring his fangs as he incited the rats to violence. The enraptured audience would chant the chorus. “Tooth and claw! Tooth and claw! Tooooth aaaand claaaaw!” while their flaming torches bathed the cavern’s walls in blood-red hues. Am I the only reader who can’t quite shake the thought that there are certain historical connotations here as Morgan’s words sweep over the crowd and turn them into an army united for one purpose, to destroy the world of mice?

    The devout Green-Mouser within me shakes his head and tuts with disapproval as Piccadilly grimly declares that his faith in our deity is long gone. Just because you glance over your shoulder and do not see him does not mean he’s not there, my grey friend. He can only be found deep within our own hearts and I pray the day shall come when you understand this sweet and simple truth.

    The prophecy Audrey witnessed in the still pool finally comes to pass as Piccadilly runs, a thousand mouths snapping at his heels. Fortune seems to forsake the grey mouse as he stumbles and falls, his head slamming into the ground with an impact that knocks him out and brings the chapter to a brutally abrupt conclusion.

    Cut to black and roll the credits as the theme music for The Deptford Mice TV series is drowned by the anguished howls of fans all over the world. No way! There is no way Piccadilly can be dead! Season III only just began! Come on, he has to be reunited with Audrey! I know in my heart that theirs is a love written in the stars! Oh my gosh, I can’t wait until next week! Fanfiction! Come on, people, we need fanfiction in here! This is a fandom emergency!

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  2. I didn’t have space to mention this in the main post, but as I was rereading this chapter I was also in the middle of Alan Garner’s ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ – a children’s classic that I’d been wanting to get around to for years and which apparently influenced and inspired our Sir Robin a great deal.

    Partway through ‘Weirdstone’, there is a fantastic scene where the minor villains of the book, the gnarled, malevolent svart-alfar, hold a subterranean gathering of all their kind to chew over their evil plans. The Svartmoot is observed by the heroes from a concealed gallery, and, reading it alongside this chapter, I gleefully acknowledged how alike the scenes were.

    You’ll have to read the scene in ‘Weirdstone’ for yourselves to pick up all the details, but I for one really enjoy seeing the echoes and shadows of other books in the writing of my favourite authors. It makes a body realise that no story is ever absolute and that no idea can ever be completely original, but, rather than being a depressing truth, I consider that liberating. What new Svartmoots are the writers of the future fashioning this very minute? Will a new villain with the livid hunger of the svart-alfar and the articulate oration of Morgan arise to give a speech to make readers tremble? Will there be plucky young protagonists with both the boldness of Susan and the bitterness of Piccadilly to observe them? I do hope so!

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    • Oh I’ve always loved The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. I think I mentioned at one point or another that the drawn-out and atmospheric sequence in which the children are trapped underground and being hunted by their enemies made quite an impression on my younger self. When you reach the end of the book, you ought to check out its sequel too. You won’t regret it, believe me.

      I was thinking of the Svartmoot myself as Piccadilly and Marty spied on the rally of the London rats. You’re right in saying that glimmering influence from Weirdstone can be glimpsed as the scene plays out. This is the wondrous magic of storytelling. One idea can be brought to life in a thousand different ways, each with its own power to entertain and perhaps even inspire you to tell a story of your own. This has been true long before television or books came along. Storytelling is one of most precious gifts we humans possess and one not to be taken lightly.

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  3. Oh, Matt, making that confession was risky of you…

    so I offer you a word to the wise. Because, you see, I read the three Wyrd Museum books recently, and quickly.

    Because I have some acquaintance with opera, there was a way in, for me, with the Wyrd Museum books. I would describe them as Wagner’s Ring Cycle without a Ring. But a word of warning: Jarvis cheerfully helped himself to stealing from some other mythologies. You will never guess what is used to win the day when the Norse baddies appear to be ending the world…for the excellent reason that it is a legend well and truly outside the Norse canon. And that is only the supernatural goings-on. There is no shortage of England and things English in the three books as well. To sum up, these are three very crowded books with a LOT of detail. Not to speak of the emotional and psychological climate and weather which test and try everybody in the books.

    My advice is that you do some skim- surface- reading of the three books. There is a genuine risk of the reader getting bogged down in all the different levels of detail and all the different story arcs. Between the time traveling, the flashbacks, the new complications that arise as soon as one challenge or another is met, the way that each of the three books differs from the others but each one climbs onto the shoulders of the previous book, so to speak…it is hazardous getting through the Wyrd Museum saga, and it is a saga.

    So, don’t put off approaching these books. And approach them with caution and deliberation. Good luck!

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      • You shan’t be alone in braving the horrors of The Wyrd Museum for the first time, Matt. I never got around to reading that trilogy myself. I ordered all three books and they arrived this week. And let me tell you, it was awesome to find myself holding not just one but THREE (count them, THREE) Robin Jarvis books I’ve never read before.

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  4. You know, something just dawned on me. If Piccadilly had been part of the group bound for Fennywolde, an interesting new layer to the story would have arisen when he crossed paths with Isaac Nettle.

    Just think. One the one paw, we have a mouse who has lost his faith in The Green Mouse. On the other paw, we have the most passionate Green-Mouser in the entire field. Somehow, I have no doubt that sparks would fly in sizzling showers when those two mice collided. Isaac never misses the chance to bellow about heathens and Piccadilly can’t resist the urge to make quips when he feels a good stinging one-liner is just what the situation calls for. Just imagine the insults which would be traded.

    Even if Isaac never dared to lay his cruel paw on Audrey, I get the feeling that the grey mouse and the mousebrass maker would become the worst of enemies pretty quickly. All the right ingredients for a truly bitter rivalry are right there.

    Who do you think Isaac would despise more? Audrey or Piccadilly?

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  5. As much as I hated reading the scene between Barker, Smiff and Kelly, I have to acknowledge the genius of the set-up. (Can’t say what the set-up is, though, because #spoileralert)
    Nevertheless, in this one short scene I come to loathe Smiff and Kelly in a way I never hated any of the rats in The Dark Portal (actually, The Dark Portal rats were all delightfully, disgustingly amusing in their own individual ways). Sniff and Kelly, however, just make my teeth grind. I pretty much counted down the pages from this point hoping for them to meet a grisly end (as this is generally what happens to Jarvis rats 🤔🤔🤔🤔)
    Moving on, of course we’ve known from the first mention who Old Stumpy is going to be, but even so when he makes his appearance there’s that brief moment of warm fuzzy feeling, like, “Nawwww!!! It’s Morgan!!! How nice to see a familiar face from Book One!!”
    Which is almost instantly swept away by, “Hmmmm, he wants to kill ALL the mice. He’s really not a nice rat.”
    🤔😳😱😂

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    • The scene with Barker and the gruesome twosome made me cringe too. That was evil and not in the fun kind of way. I agree, it feels as if Smiff and Kelly exist for the sole purpose of making you despise their existence. And in that purpose, they are a roaring success. Seriously, I miss One-Eyed Jake. These two may think they’re big and bad but really, they’re nothing but a pair of ratfinks whereas Jake would love to teach them a lesson they’d never get the chance to use afterwards.

      By the way, Morgan is the character who finds what I consider to be his definitive voice while Jon Pertee narrates The Final Reckoning. I got the chills when he snarled “Let blood flow in the underground! DEATH TO ALL MICE!” There and then, that was it. Morgan was brought to life in all his murderous glory. Or should I say infamy? I mean, I love the piebald rat as a character and all but I wouldn’t want anyone to think his blood-soaked actions meet with my approval. What would the rest of the Green-Mousers think at next year’s Spring celebration?

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