The Final Reckoning | Chapter 7

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The constellations were quenched, snuffed out by the tremendous powers of both Jupiter and the age-old Starglass and all who witnessed it fell to their knees and prayed.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I had to admire Arthur’s stoicism in this chapter. Look at him, shimmying up that freezing fence, paws bleeding, probably getting skelfs all over, just so the Starwife and the rest of the mouse community can get an idea of how the dread Unbeest intends to bring about the world’s end. Then, he invites himself to wade through malevolent magical mist and stand under Jupiter’s chin with Thomas as if he does this sort of thing twice-weekly at six!

He may not be forged by the Green for a destiny tall and dangerous like Audrey, blessed with shining innocence like Twit, or chosen by the bats like Oswald, but Arthur’s stalwart willingness to help out in any way he’s able should not be disregarded. I’ve always enjoyed faithful friends and sidekicks in fantasy – those who don’t necessarily have any special magical gifts or precious artefacts bestowed upon them, but without whom the heroes would likely not succeed in their endeavours. A toast to the Arthur Browns of the world, says I.

With Arthur and Thomas, we experience the cataclysmic second half of this chapter. At this point we’re about a hundred pages shy of the trilogy finale, and there are a few final reckonings in store, for good or ill. This is where the Deptford Mice Trilogy really shines as a single, beautifully woven story. Jupiter was frightening in The Dark Portal, and The Crystal Prison demonstrated his staying-power as an antagonist even when we as readers believed that he was gone for good, but in The Final Reckoning it’s go big or go home for the deathless Lord of Winter, and if big means absolute world-domination, then so be it.

(As a final note, I researched the incantation which Jupiter recites from the Observatory dome and the fell-sounding names he invokes, but the only conclusion I could come to was that they must be Mr Jarvis’ own creations. As always, if he or anybody else can shed any light on the matter, do not hesitate to do so.)

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I feel like I could write an essay on this one chapter alone, because there is so much mythology and history thrown into this chapter. And that’s in a chapter that moves at a rapid clip and deepens the peril of the main characters. That’s what I love about these books – they are, first and foremost, gripping adventure stories, but you can stop and look at the layers on the way through and there’s plenty of stuff to dig into. My shortlist:

  • Black squirrels! I had to read up a bit on black squirrels, because I was wondering how rare they were. You can check the Wikipedia page on that one, but it seems that they’re around, but much less common than the greys, making it a perfect idea that they’re part of a ‘noble race’ of squirrels. (Or perhaps, looking at it from our modern viewpoint, was part of the problem that the black squirrels considered themselves better than other squirrels?)
  • First picture of Jupiter! While we saw his silhouette at the end of Chapter 14 of The Dark Portal, this was the first time we’ve seen a front-on illustration of him in the entire trilogy. Pretty horrific! (Apologies to anyone with no illustrations.)
  • Servants of the dark void! I’m assuming this is similar to the hellish guardians of the Dead that Jupiter escaped from at the end of The Crystal Prison. It appears that he’s taunting them, because they can’t escape their fate of death, whereas he has not only done that – he’s about to doom everyone else as well.
  • Curse languages! Help me out here – I’m looking to you, Aufwader! – is the incantation of Jupiter in a real language? E.g. some sort of Gaelic / old English?
  • Holding the heavens once more! Now this was a fascinating throwaway – Jupiter tells the Starglass to hold the heavens once more. So all the stars used to be in the Starglass? Was it used as part of the Creation of the world in some way? Was the Starwife the ongoing custodian, perhaps, of the singularity at the centre of the Big Bang? The original point of nothing from which all things sprang? I don’t really need to know the details – the hint of the idea is brilliant enough.
  • What about the humans? I love that line, which I’ve chosen for the chapter quote that all who witnessed the stars disappearing fell to their knees and prayed. Presumably, this means that humans – who, up until now, are probably relatively unaware that a bunch of mice in an abandoned house in Deptford saved them all from dying of the Black Plague – for the first time, see the power of Jupiter. This is a bit of fan fiction I would be interested in: what do the humans make of this level of cataclysm?

Anyway, no time for thinking about the answers, we’re at the end of Chapter 7. We are halfway. We are committed. On to the Final Reckoning!

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18 thoughts on “The Final Reckoning | Chapter 7

  1. Okay, I’m fresh from reading Chapter Seven and I’ve got to say that Stephen King only wishes he could write something approaching how awesome this story is. Thomas Triton and Arthur go to Greenwich to see what they can see. And what they see is so sense-shattering that the words “That. Was. Madness.” are left rattling around in my skull like acorns thrown down a well. Things just got real. Believe it.

    In the Skirtings, the situation is steadily progressing from grim to desperate. Food is growing so scarce and the cold so piercing that the mice have actually moved their beds into the hall and pooled their meagre resources, fighting for a slender chance of survival. By the Green Mouse, their sanctuary is shrinking around them with each passing moment that increases Jupiter’s strength. And by the chapter’s conclusion, the might of the Unbeest will have reached terrifying new heights. The thought of the frightened mice huddled around the campfire, struggling to keep warm as the wind howls like a lost soul, is so haunting. That said, it was sweet how Audrey is leaning her head on her mum’s shoulder as the two of them sat and comforted each other. Even though they are facing certain doom at the fangs of the Midwinter Death, their family is together, and that brings so much more warmth than a fire ever could. Sometimes, you’ve just got to hang in there and give your strength to the ones you love until the end comes, whether that end proves to be for good or ill.

    If Audrey and Gwen show us how much easier it to face the bad times with a friendly paw to hold your own, the Starwife is a example of how bitter it can be to have no friends at all. Even though the squirrel queen is surrounded by dozens of mice, she reminds me of a solitary tree. Silent and waiting. And as we discover when Audrey approaches the Starwife, this analogy is quite apt, since it turns out that there really is no other creature like the Handmaiden of Orion. Audrey asks if she misses her people, and the Starwife reveals that her people departed from this world long before the mousemaid was born. She is a black squirrel, the last of her proud race. I thought that the black squirrels something made up for the story, but apparently they really exist as a rare mutation of eastern grey and fox squirrels. I’m not sure this is what Mr Jarvis had in mind when he was writing the Deptford Mice as the Starwife explains to Audrey that, once upon a time, there was an entire kingdom of black squirrels before war brought an end to it. Very interesting.

    History lessons aside, I like that Audrey is the only mouse to step forward and ask if there’s anything she can do for the Starwife. Our leading lady has every reason to despise the Handmaiden of Orion after everything she was put through during Book Two. She was forced to leave her home, almost killed, not once, but twice, and any chance she had of a life with Piccadilly was destroyed. No, nobody could find it in their hearts to condemn Audrey for holding all this against the Starwife, who used her as a pawn. But she doesn’t. Seeing this old squirrel who has lost everything and appears so defeated, Audrey reaches out to her. They may be from two different worlds but the crisis has brought them together as the walls between their two races come tumbling down. They are both afraid of what lies before them and it’s sweet to see these two characters, who once clashed like two swords on opposite sides, now bonding with each other.

    When the wind invades the hall and blows out the fire which refuses to be rekindled, the story reaches a new level of dread and it keeps going from there. The danger is growing, and we are not allowed to forget that for one second. Taking charge of the situation before terror can send the mice spiralling into uncontrollable panic, the Starwife slaps a hysterical Arabel and orders the rest of them out into the yard. Jupiter is working his evil will, and even if she can do nothing to stop him, she must know why.

    As we enter the yard, it is strange to remember the fun Arthur and his friends had exploring this place waaaay back in The Dark Portal. That much more carefree time feels like an eternity ago and so much has changed since then. Twit returned to his field of gold and Piccadilly left without even saying goodbye. Audrey has become someone he barely understands anymore, a mouse who could almost be a total stranger to him and their neighbours. And now Oswald has been carried away into the night by the bats. Even the landscape of the yard has changed, the winter having transformed it from an adventure playground into an alien landscape that seems hostile to the very presence of the mice. Or perhaps it’s Arthur who has changed. Perhaps he has grown up looking at this familiar place through the wiser eyes of an adult. What do you think?

    The Starwife asks for a volunteer to climb the fence and survey the horizon. Arthur steps forward, having worked hard to master the skill of climbing while he was a sentry in Fennywolde. Up he goes, discovering that a fence covered with frost is much less pleasant to climb a cornstalk in a sunny field. My fingers are twitching just to think of how much that would hurt…

    Arthur gazes toward the distant power station and witnesses a cloud of vapour pouring from the chimney. Before his horrified eyes, it swirls into the shape of a spectral cat. Jupiter. But not Jupiter as Arthur last saw him. The Lord Of All has become great and terrible beyond imagination. The beast slain in The Dark Portal was little more than a squalling baby compared with the unspeakable sight Arthur now beholds. You know those movie posters in which the villain is portrayed as a ghostly figure looming over the city? You know, an artistic way of conveying the threat which this bad guy poses for the heroes? Yeah, that just about sums up Jupiter’s Unbeest form! But it’s no artistic choice! That is literally what he has become! An ungodly horror far more dangerous in death than he ever was in life! And right now, he’s heading for Greenwich with the Starglass in his paw and a dark purpose in his cold heart!

    The Starwife beseeches Thomas to go to Greenwich and find out what that purpose is. This is where the audiobook recorded by Jon Pertwee did something very clever to save space on the cassette tapes it came on. The events which unfold when Thomas and Arthur go to Greenwich and spy on Jupiter? In the audiobook, they never go on their mission and what happens in Greenwich is depicted as taking place while Arthur watches from the top of the fence. I frowned at the complete absence of Oswald but I have to admit that this was a pretty neat trick.
    Oh yes, Arthur joins Thomas in the sewer and firmly insists on going with him to Greenwich. Thomas chuckles, probably wondering why he always finds himself accompanied on by a loyal sidekick when he goes adventuring. Perhaps it’s fate. Yes, let’s go with that.

    Their path leads through the sewers to the park where Jupiter stands atop the observatory, his evil majesty described to us in several paragraphs which are the most awe-inspiring things I have ever come across in a book. Whenever I read this part, I feel as though I stand trembling in the presence of a supremely powerful entity who has come to rain desolation upon me and then erase all memory of my existence from the face of time itself. No lie, this unspeakable thing would make H.P Lovecraft himself too scared to go to sleep ever again for fear of what might be lurking under the bed. Not only has Jupiter ascended beyond mortal limitations, the plot he has hatched is so diabolical that his scheme from Book One looks like small potatoes in comparison. And as I’ve said, that plan was a work of twisted genius in its own right. But this? This, my fellow readers, puts Jupiter’s villainy in a whole new league!

    The Starglass was a symbol of the pact between the earth and the Heavens and was entrusted to the keeping of whoever sat upon the Oaken Throne. Not anymore. The Starwife has been overthrown and the symbol corrupted. Jupiter has the cosmos on a leash and will never let go. The thought of that fiend having so much power…

    Ha, ha, haaaa! You beat me to the punch, Matt! As the world plunges into silence as Jupiter completes his spell of doom, the same question comes to my mind. What ARE the humans making of all this? We see this story from the perspective of the mice and their fellow creatures but I have to imagine that our own society has got to be going crazy. A monstrous ghostly cat just manifested on the roof of an observatory and sucked the stars out of the sky, leaving it a sea of endless darkness. What’s going on in the human world? Is a flustered Prime Minister appealing for calm? Are the motorways jampacked with cars as people swarm to see if their loved ones are safe and book flights out of the country? Is there anarchy in the streets as religious groups cry out that the apocalypse is here while animal rights groups disagree very strongly, proclaiming this to be a manifestation of nature’s wrath wreaking a terrible revenge upon mankind? None of this is so much as hinted at in the book but I find it incredibly fascinating to mull over!

    Oh my gosh! Who shall defend the universe now that Jupiter has captured the star warriors? If ever there was a time for us to panic, that time would be now!

    Now THAT was a bleak, sorrowful and unbelievably scary chapter. When I read this as a child, I was powerless to tear my eyes away. The whole situation just seemed so hopeless for the Deptford Mice. How could they possibly fight back against a titan who can steal the stars from the sky? How? HOW?!?!?!

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    • @Aron: As somebody who has never especially liked Stephen King, I wholeheartedly agree with you there. I also like your comparison of Jupiter over London to a traditional film poster. Honestly it makes me want to draw it, but I daresay our Sir Robin has better first drafts of such a picture tucked away in a drawer than I could ever hope to attempt.

      Regarding the poor humans unwittingly caught up in the side-effects of the Unbeest’s diabolical genius, when I was a kid I always just thought of it as a case of ‘people will see what they want to see’. I imagined that the folk of London and the rest of the world explained away the whole thing as a global natural phenomenon like the Summer of 1816, and treated it accordingly. (Only the Greenwich Observatory staff know the truth, haha).

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      • You should still give it a whirl if you’re feeling inspired, Aufwader! I love Mr Jarvis’s artwork but your own style is magical in its own right! Take that wonderful picture of Ysabelle which you uploaded on Beyond The Silvering Sea! L-O-V-E! How in the world did you draw her raven hair so gorgeously, strand by lovely strand?

        That must have been a memorable night for the guy who happened to be squinting through the telescope when Jupiter worked his mischief upon the Heavens! I guess that humanity might have chalked the spectral cat off as a hoax or a mass hallucination but how about the deep freeze which is slowly but surely taking hold of the entire planet? I imagine that scientists are baffled as to the cause of this alarming phenomenon!

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  2. The Starwife being a black squirrel came about because when I visited Green Knowe, a few years earlier, Lucy Boston had black squirrels. They came tapping on her window every day and she fed them with fruit and nut. I’d never seen or heard of them before either but simply had to use them!

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    • Now I’m wishing I could’ve met Lucy Boston, she sounds legendary in many respects. I’d love to know if you ever made any models of your black squirrel characters? The Starwife and her royal ancestry are certainly worthy of being immortalised in three-dimensional form!

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      • Apparently, Sarah Lawrence College adopted the black squirrel as their unofficial mascot! The campus bookstore even sells plush squirrels! It seems that the Starwife’s people won’t be forgotten after all! They have their own stuffed toy!

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    • That is so interesting to hear how the regal race of black squirrels came to be! Oh, just out of curiosity (because I find the squirrel mythos so fascinating in particular)… the Hazel Realm is also referred to as Coll Regalis, but did you ever come up with any other “formal” names for the rest of the royal houses?

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      • Ah, somehow I figured you had! I’m so impressed by all the detail you put into the world of Deptford, even bits that haven’t made their way into the books (at least not yet). It makes everything all the more believable. If you ever do come across that sketch pad, I would love to know of the ancient squirrel lore therein. 🙂

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  3. Matt: I’m in awe of what you wrote about the Starglass and the role it may have played in the universe’s creation! Well done! Since the Starwife is its rightful owner and she is known as the handmaiden of Orion, do you think Orion was the architect of all creation? Or was it a joint project between Orion, the Lady and the Green Mouse? That would make them a trio of benevolent deities who are opposed to another much more infernal trio. You know who I’m referring to so ominously, don’t you? There are even two male deities and one female in both groups. Do you believe in coincidences?

    By the way, Jupiter also shows up in the illustration for the concluding chapter of The Crystal Prison! True, Akkikkuyu had that toothy tattoo on her ear long before she made the mistake of agreeing to serve Jupiter! But that malicious grins comes entirely from him as he gloats over his terrified victim!

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  4. @Aron: I’ll add it to the pile! Hopefully I should get around to generating some proper artwork once the Great Grand Overhaul of Silvering Sea is finished. (Thank you all for your patience in that regard).

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