The Final Reckoning | Chapter 8

dm3

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

He had come to the edge of despair and stared into the devastating eyes of madness – just one blissful plunge and he would be gone forever, lost in the comforting maze of lunacy, never to return to the harsh, cruel world where his body suffered.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  This chapter really pulls no punches. There is such a sense of dread in the opening pages – we hope that Marty returned to Holeborn in time to warn the community, but, deep down, we get the creeping feeling that he did not.

The appearance of Barker brings hope, until the grisly truth is drawn from him. The round-about way this is written is really quite painful to read; Piccadilly growing more and more desperate, grasping at straws, and Barker insisting that he ‘wouldn’t touch mousey meat’, moaning that he can still hear the cries of the Holeborners as they are cut down. It’s horrendous, but then, that’s the idea.

Piccadilly’s despairing walk through his former home is just as bad, and by the time it’s over his rage and loathing for Morgan and the rat army reads like the most natural reaction in the world. We’ve already seen that Piccadilly is not one to curl up and cry if he can be doing instead, and here we see that side of him taken to its extreme. The Holeborn massacre has opened up a new and darker path for him, one from which he may not easily turn away.

It’s just me rooting for Mr Jarvis’ villains as I do, but the scene where Jupiter beguiles Morgan back into his service touches me in my dastardly little heart. Old Stumpy and Old Mogs were a team, and seeing them ‘get back together’ is like finding out that one’s favourite doom metal band are coming back for a reunion tour. By himself, Morgan was passable, but with Jupiter he becomes great; the left claw of a power strong enough and cruel enough to carry out villainies vaster than Morgan’s tiny rat brain could ever comprehend. I sob for Piccadilly with the rest of you, but I can’t help but grin in bloodthirsty joy when Morgan leads the hordes to Deptford in a sloosh of freezing, scummy river water.

We also get a much closer look at Barker. ‘If only the mousey boy would go away somewhere, he could finish what he had been sent to do’, the wily old codger thinks to himself. Sent? By whom, and to what purpose? Then there’s the scene where he hides Piccadilly from the rat horde as they pass by on the rampage.

Personally, I do not at all buy the explanation that the rats were simply too busy making fun of Barker to notice that he was awkwardly and suspiciously perched against the tunnel wall. The tunnels are not that wide, and the rats are all different heights; someone was bound to clap eyes on a protruding elbow or toe of Piccadilly’s before long. No, summat’s up, as Thomas would say. Tread carefully, Piccadilly – there is more to ol’ barmy Barker than he would have you believe.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I feel like I must have blanked this chapter out somehow when I was younger – either that, or I was a lot less desensitised back then. Maybe it’s getting older and realising that, actually, massacres do occur in real life? Is it because I’m a parent of three now, and more aware of what would disturb my kids?

Whatever the reason, all I can say is that the unspeakable grimness of this chapter really struck me this time. As well as the brutality of the rats, Piccadilly is caught between madness and hatred. Barker saves him from the madness – only to hand him over to the hatred. I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced it – to be wronged so badly that the hatred courses through you in a physical way – but it is a miserable path to follow.

Revenge might be entertaining in a Tarantino film, but in real life, harbouring the desire for vengeance costs, and we see that in poor Piccadilly. Hang in there, my grey friend!

And Barker – the comic/pathetic rat character – suddenly turning out to be something more? A brilliant touch, even if nothing more were to be explained.

When we were reading The Crystal Prison, I was commenting that the story takes a while before you realise who the bad guy is and what’s going on. But here in The Final Reckoning, it’s been relentless from the first chapter. Well, that’s sometimes what it takes to defeat evil. Stay strong, Deptford Mice!

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8 thoughts on “The Final Reckoning | Chapter 8

  1. The Deptford Mice trilogy were the first books to show me the true meaning of evil. Not the cheesy “We’ll meet again, Turtles! And when we do, you will not stop my latest quirky plan to take over the world! Mwahahahaha!” grade of evil you would come across in Saturday morning cartoons. I’m talking about what Piccadilly awakens to in Chapter Eight of The Final Reckoning. A horror beyond belief. An awful revelation which drives the grey mouse so deeply into despair that he nearly loses his mind.

    I’m weak with relief to find that Piccadilly got out of his close encounter with the ratkind, skin intact. But somehow, I doubt that he will consider his survival a miracle when this chapter has run its course. The grey mouse runs home frantically and bumps into Barker on the way. The moment when the old rat mumbles that it wasn’t him, he had nothing to do with what happened to the poor mousies, pretty much slays any hope you may have been harbouring that Marty made it back in time to warn the Holeborners about the attack. Barker tells Piccadilly what happened while he lay unconscious on the train tracks. Death.

    Oh my God, the description of the slaughter is horrifying in its simplicity. The rats attacked and the mice never stood a chance. They had no idea of what was approaching their door before that door was thrown open and their sanctuary became a slaughterhouse from which none escaped alive.

    Just take a moment and allow the monstrous truth of what has happened to dawn on you. Save for a shell-shocked Piccadilly, the mice of London are all gone and the age of tooth and claw has begun. The city has a new ruler. Morgan. And the worst part of it is that we don’t need to take Barker’s word for it. With our own traumatised eyes, we are about to see what has become of the mouse community that captured our hearts and charmed us so.

    Towards the hellish conclusion of Chapter Three, I dropped a hint that Morgan’s call for the deaths of the mice could be compared to certain infamous events from our own history. Chapter Eight is when that seed finally sprouts thorny vines which wrap around our hearts and crush them with despair. When it dawns on you that an atrocity on this horrifying scale has happened in the real world and the realisation makes you die a little inside.

    I still remember the shock I felt upon learning that the London mice were wiped out off-screen. We spent the majority of Book Two with the Fennywolders but now the highly promising setting of Holeborn has been destroyed. Just like that. Now that was so brutal and unexpected I never saw it coming.

    Everything about the victory feast of the rats makes my stomach heave. As the invaders carouse in the mouse-holes they have so gleefully desecrated, some of them are wearing ghoulish masks crudely made from the faces of their murdered victims while others munch on mouse ears that have been fried like bacon. And the gravy…oh my God, the brawn gravy. You know how that stuff’s made, right? Remind me never to go to KFC for lunch again. Kelly wraps a mouse’s skin around his shoulders like a dainty feather boa while Kelly stuffs his maw with greasy ears and I pray for the deaths of these two monsters.

    How dare Morgan lounge on the throne of the Great Thane as if it was a tacky lawn chair? The piebald rat is a monster. If there was any lingering doubt about it, the smirk of fatherly pride which spreads across his muzzle as he surveys the barbarian horde would drive it from our minds in the blink of an eye, never to be seen again. We knew that the piebald rat had killed before. We saw his very claws feed Albert Brown to the nightmare lurking within the shadows of the Dark Portal. We saw the remains of his own victims tucked away in a secret corner of the sewers, trophies of a serial killer who had been adding to the pile of mouse skins for untold years. Intellectually, we knew just what he is. But it’s one thing to see the implication of his crimes and shudder as though you just listened to a particularly creepy ghost story and another to see him with a bowl full of innocent blood raised to his mouth and realise just how much you want him to die by Piccadilly’s paw.

    He’s no longer simply an enemy of the mice but an enemy of life itself. This was genocide. Even if Jupiter never came back, the horror of what Morgan has done here would be enough to make him a worthy candidate for the final evil our heroes must overcome. Your time will come, Old Stumpy. You’re going to die and I’m going to be there, so help me.

    Basking in the satisfaction of a good day’s slaughter, Morgan looks into the bowl of blood held between his claws and sees that the crimson fluid has turned cold as ice. A familiar pair of eyes stare from the bottom of the bowl and into the depths of his very soul. Jupiter has come to call upon him and those eyes are pleased by what they see. Not only has he found his old lieutenant, Morgan has assembled a legion of followers to work his will. It matters not that Morgan would die sooner than kneel before Jupiter again. Unlike the Mouse In The Green, the Genius Of The Black Winter is no gentle and kindly God, but a God who takes what he desires. The Starwife learned this to her everlasting regret and now so does Morgan. As Jupiter commands him to obey, he scrambles to his feet and tells the astonished rats that there has been a slight change of plan.

    Holeborn may lie in ruins, but the carnage is far from over. Destruction is on the move once more and this time, its destination is Deptford where Audrey and the other mice of the Skirtings have no idea what’s coming their way.

    This leaves us with the question of why Jupiter should need any army to do ANYTHING for him. With all the power he has gained from rising again as an undead monstrosity, plus the tool with which the Gods themselves created the universe, he can lay waste to his enemies as easily as scratching his nose. So why bother to seek out Morgan and the rats? What is he up to?

    Piccadilly is facing the darkest moment in his entire life. Everything he had is gone and there’s nothing he can do to bring it back. Remember when I asked if Audrey likes the mouse she sees in the mirror? As he thinks about himself, Piccadilly can’t help wondering if he was cursed since the day he was born. Damn, I want so badly for someone to tell him that he’s not a bad person. He’s a good person whom too many bad things have happened to. And as the rat army comes marching down the tunnel towards him, it seems that the last mouse of Holeborn is moments away from joining his fallen brothers and sisters. Until Barker hits upon the cunning plan to shove him down on the ground and pretend that he’s a chair. Which actually works. Seriously. Piccadilly’s incredulous face in the illustration is like my own reflected back at me from the page. That was a close call when Smiff noticed Barker and went after him. If Kelly hadn’t dragged his crony back into the procession before Piccadilly’s cover could be blown…

    I completely agree with Aufwader when she points out that there’s no way the rats should have missed Piccadilly. Hundreds of rats and not one of them happens to glance down and spy an arm or leg poking out from under Barker? Not a chance in Hell. Something mighty peculiar is going on and I’ll share my thoughts on what exactly that could be in due time…

    Oh boy…Piccadilly should have resisted the urge to go and see what was left of Holeborn. Nothing good could possibly have come from that decision. I would say that a nightmare is waiting for him on the other side of the doorway but that would do it no justice at all. Even the most bone-chilling dream must come to an end but what he sees in Holeborn is an example of why The Deptford Mice is no cartoon as I said before. Real violence has real consequences. The innocent mice who have died at the merciless claws of the rats won’t be waking up tomorrow.

    What gets me is how scraps of fur are scattered on the floor and Piccadilly even comes across the apron of a friendly mousemaid who was alive so short a time before all this happened. Nothing about the mass murder is sugarcoated for the grey mouse or the reader. There’s no ambiguity about what has happened here. The mice who were his friends and neighbours are all dead. He’s looking at their last remains and as tough as he has always been, the book would be lying to us in a ridiculous way if the overwhelming enormity of that horror was not too much for him to take. Something so horrible would be more than enough to break anyone, let alone a mouse who has suffered as much as Piccadilly. Even though Barker somehow reaches into his mind and salvages it before it shatters beyond repair, we know deep down that Piccadilly has not come through this ordeal unscathed.

    It seems that destiny now draws both Piccadilly and Morgan back to Deptford. Is it a coincidence that both the grey mouse and the piebald rat were brooding about the folks they left behind so short a time before they resolve to go back? Piccadilly and Morgan are chained together by fate. Our hero has a score to settle with Old Stumpy and a mousemaid to be reunited with. Since both are waiting for him in Deptford, how can he not return? Destiny or coincidence, call it whatever you like, but you’d better believe that Piccadilly WILL be present when The Final Reckoning takes place!

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    • I’m glad somebody agrees with me over Barker trying to hide Piccadilly in plain sight. No matter how you look at it, it just seems woolly, but I suppose we shall uncover an explanation for Barker’s wily ways in due course.

      With regards to Morgan, I must say that I ‘cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations’, as Tolkien put it. Of course you are all free to make your own comparisons, but for myself, I can find it in my heart to cheer for Mr Jarvis’ villains precisely because they /are/ divorced from real life. Even the grittiest, most current-event-relevant bad guys (who we’ll meet much later in this project and for whom this topic will likely be resurrected) have a touch of magic to them, and however we loathe what they do, we cannot help but grudgingly find them charismatic, because all the best fictional villains are.

      Aron, you said that this trilogy was the first to show you the true meaning of evil. I think that’s a pretty hefty responsibility to lay at the feet of any author, but it’s also one of our Sir Robin’s greatest strengths.

      Through the lens of larger-than-life villains, he showed us as young readers that evil exists, but he did it in a way that was truthful without forcing us to process the full extent of real-life horrors before we were ready. As an adult, having seen the nastiness of real life for myself, I appreciate what the likes of Morgan and the other rats did for me when I was younger, and I’m content to enjoy them as the theatrical fantasy baddies I now know they are.

      Finally, I hope that the Whitby Legacy has the same effect for the young readers of today as the Deptford Mice Trilogy did for some of us. With the world they’re growing up in, a bit of safe exposure through fantasy could go a long way.

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      • I think good scary fiction takes something that is bad in real life and escalates it up so that we can experience it in a safe environment. Now that I’m a lot older, I realise tha there actually *are* people who act in hurtful ways (and don’t seem to have a problem with it) and we’ll probably all encounter one or two of them personally in our lifetimes.

        And what is needed in those cases is courage.

        Which is why I like all of Mr Jarvis’ books. His characters aren’t muscle-bound trained warriors. (I might be saying this because I watched Battle of Five Armies last night where everybody, bar the hobbit, seems to know spectacular fight scenes.)

        But what they do have in common is that when they see something evil, they don’t turn the other way.

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      • It looks woollier than Oswald’s winter gear. And as we know, THAT sets a high bar for woolliness. Look at the illustration. Piccadilly’s legs are sticking out from under Barker so blatantly while the rats seem completely transfixed by the crazy old coot. Something just doesn’t seem natural about how Piccadilly got out of that sticky situation in one piece but he’s so relieved that he doesn’t think to question just how unlikely it was even though he probably should.

        Ahhh, I remember that quote of Professor Tolkien’s. It was his response to the comparisons many readers of LOTR drew between World War II and The War Of The Ring, right? When you hint that comparisons between the bad guys and World War II are destined to pop up again when we’re further down the line, I have a feeling I knew which trilogy you’re referring to. And believe me, I’m heartily looking forward to that sucker!

        The Deptford Mice was a huge revelation to a younger me. I had no idea of how unprepared I was for what lay in store until I read Chapter One of The Dark Portal. This whole saga begins with a husband and father being dragged into the shadows and eaten alive by unseen jaws. One thing was for sure. This was NOT The Rescue Rangers. Never had I feared for the heroes of a story as I feared for Audrey, Piccadilly and the rest of the Deptford Mice cadre.

        How cool is it that Mr Jarvis is still going strong to this day? I was a kid when I discovered The Deptford Mice. That was over fifteen years ago and Book Two of The Witching Legacy was released a couple of weeks ago! That is too cool for words!

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  2. Maybe Piccadilly can’t see himself as a hero. But I do. When Barker tells him oh-so innocently where Morgan is taking the rat army, Piccadilly doesn’t hesitate. Knowing that his friends in Deptford are next on the piebald’s hit list, he leaps back to his feet and goes after the horde in a massive “Ohhhh yeeeeah!” moment. The grey mouse has been put through the meat grinder by the horrors of this day but he’s still ready to defend the people who matter to him.

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  3. I never liked this chapter.
    ….well, obviously, one isn’t meant to enjoy (per se) a chapter detailing the massacre of an entire innocent community – but this chapter is here as a necessary element of the story. But I digress.
    What really gets me is that, up until this chapter, I always secretly harboured the hope that Piccadilly and Audrey will somehow wind up back together and get their happy ending (yes, I KNOW she married Twit, but that was just a formality born of necessity).
    But when I see Piccadilly’s heart turn stone-cold with hatred in this chapter, I am forced to accept the reality that there is probably not going to be any happy endings for Piccadilly. There never is when you allow hatred to take over. Even if he somehow survives the rat horde, survives Jupiter, and finds his way back to Audrey, he is not the same Piccadilly that we (and Audrey) have known and loved through one-and-a-half books. He is changed for good, but not in a good way.
    (As a side note, why am I even reading Jarvis books and hoping for happy endings??? I must be barmy like Barker.)
    PS: I did thoroughly enjoy the next little layer being scraped away on Barker’s character, as we start to suspect he might be something more than an old, slightly-senile and helpless rat. 🤔🤔🤔🤔.

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    • I’ve always wondered just how binding a marriage between mouse and mousewife truly is. Judging by Audrey’s desolation when she thinks about Piccadilly as she’s forced to wed Twit so that her life will be spared, I get the feeling that divorce isn’t something mice do. How would the other mice react if Piccadilly and Audrey hooked up even though she’s known to be hitched? Would she become an outcast from the community and have no choice but to go into exile with her lover? When she said the fateful words “I do” she became bound to the Greenlaws which is why Jupiter could no longer lay claim upon her soul. Are there penalties for a mouse who violates them?

      It may seem hopeless but I’m praying for Piccadilly to find his way back to Audrey. If anything can overcome the hatred he bears Morgan, it’s his love for her. I have a dream of two paws reaching out across the darkness to spark an emerald flame when they meet. And I will never let it go. I will hold onto the dream as surely as those two paws hold onto each other, cradling a light that no shadow can tear apart.

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  4. When Barker pulls Piccadilly back from the edge of madness, this is how it plays out in my mind.

    The grey mouse is floating in a dark void. Then we hear the voice of the old rat. We don’t see Barker. Not quite yet. There is only his eerie voice commanding the mouse to get a grip because he still needs him. Piccadilly mumbles a refusal. He tried. He tried with everything he had to be the hero and save everyone. And still, he failed. He doesn’t want to go back because there’s nothing waiting for him there. He just wants the pain to be over. Then we hear Barker again and this time, we see him. Not his face which remains cloaked in shadow. Just the outline of his lean body standing over the mouse who lies prone at his feet. As Piccadilly rolls over to avoid looking up at him, Barker reaches down and picks the mouse up in his arms. Rather than old and hunched, the silhouetted rat now appears angular and sinister with piercing white eyes that lack pupils. Barker turns around and both of them melt away, the dark void shaping itself back into the real world where the old rat is his barmy self again and giving Piccadilly water from the stream.

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