The Final Reckoning | Chapter 6

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‘Death is the grand master of all – no-one escapes him.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter introduces us to bat society in London, and quite an introduction it is too. What a rich and interesting culture they have! As a lover of fictional linguistics, I really appreciate the part which describes the bats ‘talking to each other in their secret tongue which, to the albino, sounded like a mixed-up jumble of high pitched squeaks’. This lets us know that the bats in the world of Robin Jarvis do, in fact, make the same sounds as real bats, which in turn implies both that when the mice are speaking to each other, we as humans would hear only squeaks (which is actually pretty hilarious if you think about it) and that all creatures in this strange Robiny world have their own individual languages and dialects.

When I started Silvering Sea, I thought about language in the Deptford books a bit more. I’ll go into this in detail when we get to the Histories, but for now I’ll say that I somehow decided that the tongue of mice, rats, and other rodents should be called ‘murinaese’, after the Latin term for their species as a group. I figured out that this language might be derivative of the tongue of the mustelidae in the way that, say, our modern English is related to Old English, and that both of those languages are separate, but related to, the ‘common’ language that all the characters of differing species must share in order to communicate in the story.

That the bats have a closed-off language that is completely unintelligible to other creatures is a clever mix of fantasy and the realities of nature, as well as being very telling about bat culture as a whole. On rereading, I noticed that the gathering of the bats at St Paul’s is described as a meeting of guilds, and a memory surfaced of getting lost in the area around the Cathedral, visiting the Clockmaker’s Museum, and finding out about the Great Twelve Livery Companies of London.  Could the bats have a similar ancient and respected institution? The titles of the elders (Keeper of the Hidden Ways, Lord of the Twilight, oh my!) certainly indicate that these moon-riders are steeped in time-honoured tradition and high wisdom.
Matt’s Thoughts: I think this would have to be my favourite chapter in the whole book. First off, it’s Oswald doing something heroic, which just always rouses me up. Secondly, I love the whole setting. St. Paul’s Cathedral is never mentioned by name, but Mr Jarvis only has to say ‘dome’ and everyone who knows even the slightest bit about London’s architecture knows which building he’s talking about.

Which is as good an excuse as any to throw in another couple of my holiday snaps:

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Maybe Londoners take this for granted, but that is an amazing piece of architecture.

On my last day in London I went to see the choral evensong at St. Paul’s, which was quite an experience. So reading the descriptions in The Final Reckoning of the vast space, the statues, the arches, even the amount of dead people that the English like to leave buried above-ground in their cathedrals – it was much more real to me this time. Also of interest was the nod to the Great Fire of London – again, without Robin having to name the event at all. London mythology becomes mixed up with Jarvis mythology and the two work perfectly because they’re both super-British.

And not just London history. Natural history as well. When Orfeo passes his ‘sight’ to Oswald, it’s a nice combo of normal biology (that bats can see in the dark) and magic – the sight is tied in with their mystical foreseeing powers.

Then we have the end of the chapter. Any other kids’ book where the hero goes off on a trek to find the ‘magic item’ that will defeat the bad guy, the magic item usually turns out to be useful. But we have one big empty book haunting us at the end … which only means things are going to get worse.

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6 thoughts on “The Final Reckoning | Chapter 6

  1. Aufwader, you have put so much thought in the languages spoken by the mice, bats and rats! I’m looking forward to hearing more when we get to the prequel trilogy! You know, it IS pretty funny to realise that the serious matters under discussion at the grand meeting would come across as little more than high-pitched squeaking to a human observer! Indeed, you have to wonder what a lot of the stuff in this book would look like from a human perspective…

    Thank you for the snapshots, Matt! Before today, I had never seen the cathedral for myself! The image of it adds so much to the story which unfolds within the dome and within its foundations! And it IS neat to realise that Oswald must be the first mouse in history to see with the vision of a bat! His differences may set him apart from the mice he grew up alongside but is that necessarily a bad thing? Being different has carried him to places beyond the wildest dreams of those who called him names! Why be like the rest when you can be the best?

    So what does this Mouseketeer have to say about Chapter Six of The Final Reckoning? Oh, it has its ups and downs! Which is to say that Oswald’s adventure kicks off by soaring up, up and away into the starry heavens before taking a steep incline into deep dark places which have lain undisturbed for centuries! And what a wild ride it is!

    Dangling from the paws of Orfeo and Eldritch who are flying across the night-bound rooftops, Oswald finds himself taken to the location where the bats have mustered and a council is being held to discuss the crisis. It turns out to be the dome of a gothic cathedral and the sight which greets his albino eyes makes them widen with awe and this reader cry out for The Deptford Mice movie trilogy with more anguish than ever before. Every single bat in the country has gathered within the immense chamber and present a majestic sight as they wait. Who are they waiting for? The unlikely hero upon whose shoulders their hopes now rest. The pale one. Which is a mystically cryptic way of saying our boy, Oswald. I’ve got to say that the fate of the world is quite a lot of pressure to place on someone whose mum pitches a fit if he so much as wanders from her sight. But let it not be said that Oswald fails to rise to the occasion and become the champion not only of the bats but every living creature who faces oblivion if The Unbeest is allowed to have his insidious way. Because the depth of daring Oswald reveals in this chapter leaves us in no doubt that he’s as much a hero as his cousin, Twit. Audrey once gave Oswald the precious gift of a future and now the time has come for him to do the same for the whole world at any cost. Pretty cool, right?

    Oswald comes to stand before the wisest bats of them all. Ashmere, wisest of the councilors. Ingeld, consort of The Lady whom we had the pleasure of meeting during The Crystal Prison. Headred, keeper of the hidden ways. Othere, lord of the twilight. Damn! One thing you’ve got to hand to the midnight society of the bats is how insanely cool everyone’s job sounds! Umm…if anyone could help me out and explain how Headred and Othere’s names are meant to be pronounced, I would be grateful! He-ah-dread? Oh-fair-aye? Please help me to sound them out properly! If Ingeld is consort of The Lady, does that make him the bat equivalent of The Starwife who is the handmaiden of Orion?

    Ashmere bleakly informs Oswald that this gathering was called because the bats have found themselves unable to see the future ever since Jupiter broke out of Hell and made his triumphant return to the mortal plane. Finally, I am free to share my thoughts about how destiny works in these books. Going by what Orfeo and Eldritch told Arthur, they had foreseen Jupiter’s downfall in Book One and his sick plot to come back from the dead in Book Two. Not only that, we can gather that they have looked into the much more distant future because they made some sly remarks about Arthur’s children. Here is my point: the bats foresaw every major event in Book One and Two as well as the distant future. Book One found its conclusion in water deep. Book Two ended with fire blazing. But when it comes to Book Three, they can only refer to the outcome of the final conflict with Jupiter as the unknown path because they have no idea how this will end. But why? If the bats have caught a sneaky glimpse of what awaits Arthur’s children, why should the outcome of this bitter Winter lie beyond their magical sight? Would you like to know what I think? When the bats look into the future, what they actually see is only a POTENTIAL outcome of the events leading up to it. If the future was written in stone, already decided long before it actually happened, why would Orfeo scold Arthur for not heeding his warning about allowing the crystal ball to break and the demon to escape from captivity? If everything that took place in The Crystal Prison was destined to happen anyway, wouldn’t the bat have rolled his eyes at Arthur instead of showing displeasure at the mouse’s failure to solve the riddle? Remember when The Green Mouse told Audrey that he was hoping Summer would not end as he feared it might? There’s no doubt in my mind that the deity was referring to Jupiter’s plan to trick Madame Akkikuyu into bringing him back from the dead. If an all-knowing God was talking about the outcome of Book Two as though the return of Jupiter was not a sure thing, there’s only one conclusion I can draw from that. The Crystal Prison’s ending was NOT a foregone conclusion at all. Jupiter’s return COULD have been avoided if certain people had made wiser choices. Just think, would Akkikuyu have been so vulnerable to Jupiter’s manipulation if Audrey had agreed to keep the rat company while she was in pain? If she had climbed down from her nest and gone with Akkikuyu that night, Audrey could have prevented Jupiter from ever sinking his hooks into the rat and he would have been left a permanent resident of Hell. The Crystal Prison would have ended much more happily and The Final Reckoning would be a very different story than it is panning out to be. Morgan would still be stirring up trouble for the London Mice but Jupiter would be out of the picture for good. My idea about how the foresight of the bats works is this: some of their predictions are far less certain to come true than others depending on the type of characters who are involved. At the time of Book Two, Audrey was feeling a mixture of compassion towards Madame Akkikuyu and simmering rage at the horrible injustice of what her own life had become. There was just as much chance that she would choose to answer Akkikuyu’s plea for help as there was that she would coldly turn the rat away and unknowingly send her into Jupiter’s web of deceit. Whether Jupiter’s plans were ruined by her kindness or allowed to continue by her selfishness, both outcomes were equally valid. It could have gone either way which is why the bats made sure to warn Arthur. So why are the bats clueless about how THIS book is going to end? Because Jupiter has come roaring back to the land of the living as an Unbeest, so terrifyingly powerful that there is a huge chance he will win and a tiny chance he will be defeated. Unlike Book Two where his triumph hinged upon the choices of other creatures who had an equal say in the matter, the odds are very much in his favor this time. The chance that there will even BE a future is so infinitely small that not even the united power of every bat in Britain can pinpoint it. It’s like trying to find a diamond buried beneath the sand of a vast desert. So there you have it. Everyone has the power of choice but some choices are more powerful than others. Whew! Now THAT was a lot for me to get off my chest! What do the rest of you think? I have one more thing to say about this. Just one more. It concerns something that we hear of in this chapter but it will have to wait until we reach the end of The Final Reckoning…

    The bat elders request that Oswald seek out a crypt which lies deep beneath the cathedral. If he is brave, the albino will find a book of long-lost knowledge which may be the key to banishing Jupiter once and for all. So how did this book come to be lost? Because it was stolen by the arch-traitor known as Hrethel, the same bat whose corpse even now guards the treasure of the bats. Is it me or does this story just keep getting more and more epic?

    The part where Orfeo loans Oswald the gift of bat sight so that he will be able to navigate the catacombs on his own is so cool! The swirling panorama of visions Oswald can suddenly see before him shows us what it would be like to have the power to see everything at once! What a cool magical ability to have! I don’t know whether I would be able to choose between far-sight or the gift of flight! Here’s where my memories of the books played a trick on me. I thought that Oswald actually did use his borrowed power to take a peek at Twit all the way in Fennywolde but it turns out he only considers doing so before realising that he can’t afford to waste this precious gift. A shame as it would have been nice to receive a cameo appearance from out favorite field-mouse. One of my regrets about this book is that we don’t find out how the Fennywolders are coping with the coldest winter in the history of the world.

    As the trio draw near to the entrance of the crypt, Oswald is assailed by a vision of an evil bat hunched covetously over the pages of a certain book. He turns to Eldritch who somberly confirms that he saw none other than the reviled Hrethel. I love the backstory we’re given for why the bats chose to leave their more powerful knowledge of magic in the past. This is the first hint we receive that Jupiter is not the only evil sorcerer in this world. Even though Hrethel is long gone, it seems that his evil was so great that the memory of it remains seared into the chamber where he met his end. A villain whose power might have rivaled the Unbeest which is exactly why Oswald has been tasked with entering his sanctum and reclaiming that power for the bats. When you think about how powerful the bats were long before the trilogy began, it boggles the mind to think of how haughty it must have made them. I’m thinking CRITICAL levels of smugness here. Off the scale, time to head down to the protective bunker and cower while we pray for it to pass and leave us unharmed. Perhaps it WAS for the best that the book was left to molder in the crypt…

    The passage Oswald follows to where the crypt awaits him is incredibly creepy. Congratulations to our esteemed author for having dreamed up a place that makes my skin crawl. Good gravy, I would never go in there. Ever. It really does feel like a black pit which has lain forgotten for centuries. An evil place which the creatures of this world would gladly leave undisturbed for eternity if not for Jupiter.

    Oswald brushes past the curtain of ancient cobwebs and the crypt is finally laid bare unto his eyes. Even though we are here for only three pages, this haunting place leaves an everlasting impression upon us. Standing in an archway is the mummified body of the long dead Hrethel and pardon me but uuuuuurgh! The illustration does so much justice to the eerie description of his corpse! The warden of the great book looks like a sculpture made from dust, his mouth frozen in an evil leer and his eyes little more than stalks which poke through the gaping sockets! When you think of mummies, you tend to picture a figure wrapped in pristine white bandages but not in The Deptford Mice! Here, we get the loving description of a preserved corpse in all its gory glory! And let’s be honest, would we have it any other way? You’re so good to your fans, Mr Jarvis! We thank you for the gift of cold shivers!

    Oswald figures out the clue Eldritch gave him and finds the book tucked away in the niche behind the hideous corpse. You know, it occurs to me that Oswald would have had an easier time hunting for it if he brought his dowsing rod with him! I wonder what happened to that rod? Did he manage to hang onto it while he was disguised as a rat in the mines?

    With the book finally recovered from the long-dead thief, it would appear that Oswald holds in his paws the key to victory over Jupiter. But appearances often lie to us. A lesson the albino learns for himself as he goes leafing through the pages and uncovers the tiny flaw in Ashmere’s plan.

    The book is completely empty.

    The last thing Hrethel did before he perished was erase its magical contents.

    Then he hid it so that the descendants of his enemies would find out what he had done many centuries after the fact.

    That’s what Oswald saw in his vision.

    The reason why the evil bat was screaming with laughter.

    Huh.

    You know, you’ve got to hand it to him.

    He really WAS dedicated to being a colossal jerk.

    I know, I know. I’m coming across as remarkably calm here. There’s a reason for that. The mother of all howls is slowly building up inside me. Oh, here it comes…

    DAMN YOU, HRETHEL! DAMN YOUR NAME! I WANT TO GATHER UP YOUR ASHES AND USE THEM TO GRIT MY PATH! WINTER MAY TAKE US ALL BUT AT THE VERY LEAST, I’LL HAVE THE PLEASURE OF WALKING ALL OVER YOU AS PUNISHMENT FOR CHEATING OSWALD OUT OF THE PRIZE HE SO BRAVELY WON!

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  2. Another chapter that stuck with me throughout my childhood. The best part for me is when Oswald gains the power to see as bats do. The idea that bats possess a magic all of their own, and that they can share it with other animals if they choose to, is really cool. It makes me wish there was a Histories dedicated solely to the bats, but alas, the Oaken Throne is as close as we’ll probably get.

    (Also, on another note, dead Hrethel always freaked me out with his raisiny eyes. GROSS!)

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    • If I could see into the future at will just like the bats, I know what I’d do. Take a sneak peek at Ogmund’s Gift. Come to think of it, do you reckon Ogmund was among the swarm of bats in Chapter One?

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      • Oh definitely! (For myself, I would’ve peeked at Twit to make sure the Fennywolders were all right – the Eternal Winter of the Unbeest must be even worse in the countryside).

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    • Hrethel is wonderfully disgusting, isn’t he? I love how he’s still grinning spitefully at Oswald from beyond the grave as if to say, “Thought you could pilfer from me, puny mouselet? Haha! Think again!”

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      • Preach it, Aufwader! Hrethel is long dead when we encounter him in the crypt but we can infer so much about his malicious personality from what he left behind for Oswald to discover. An empty book and a snide grin as if to say that if he cannot have the power, nobody can. Even in death, the last laugh belongs to him and there’s nothing the bats can do about it. Nothing. Nothing.

        As for how Fennywolde is coping with the ravages of Eternal Winter…hmm…I shall make a remark or two about that very matter in due time!

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