The Final Reckoning | Chapter 9

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The icicles broke from the ceiling, raining bitter death on the rats below.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: I was worried for a moment there – Smiff and Kelly really did look as if they might succeed in their plotting and ‘do for’ Morgan as he did for Black Ratchet. But no Robiny second-in-command goes down that easily, and Old Stumpy lives to snarl another day.

I actually didn’t realise until several years after I read this trilogy for the first time that the Deptford Power Station in this book is not, in fact, the same structure as the edifice we see from Greenwich Hill. Greenwich Power Station really does resemble a malevolent, crouching cat, and at first I wondered why Mr Jarvis chose not to house Jupiter there, it being a mere shuffle from the Observatory Dome of Doom. Apparently, however, the deceased power station at Deptford was even more grotesquely feline, and heck, perhaps Jupiter is just comfortable in the area. He’s been holed up in the sewers there for long enough, certainly.

So, Morgan and his lads arrive at Jupiter’s lair. Smiff and Kelly try to gut their leader and fail gorily all over the bank of the Thames. Morgs leads his army into glory and subjugation, only for his beloved Lord to turn all cold (sorry) and ruin his perfectly decent rat horde. Finally, Barker and Piccadilly arrive in their pudding-bowl boat and Barker invokes Hobb and HOLD ON JUST A MOMENT.

We all knew there was something dubious about Mr Lumps-On-Me-‘Ead, but the little scene with the bodies of Smiff and Kelly proves beyond doubt that there is devilment at work. What is this grizzled old wretch doing, calling upon the Father of Wrath and making hocus-pocus signs in the air? Furthermore, if he is indeed nefarious, why is he being so chummy toward Piccadilly? The plot thickens, Readers all.

 

Matt’s Thoughts:  While I could say a bit about the ironic tragedy of Piccadilly and Audrey meeting up again – with Picc not knowing that Audrey is married – or the increasingly sinister Barker, I thought I might throw in the last of my happy snaps from my trip to Greenwich.

When I was up at the Observatory last April, I saw a sign pointing out historical buildings to look at. One of these, which is clearly visible from Observatory Hill, is an old power station. (Though I understand this is not the same one as in the book, which was a now non-existent power station at Deptford.)

As soon as I had a look, The Final Reckoning popped into my head. Because , as Aufwader pointed out – look at that building there – does that not look just like an evil cat’s face?

power-station

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2 thoughts on “The Final Reckoning | Chapter 9

  1. Matt: Oh my gosh, you’re so right! That power station does indeed resemble a monstrous cat, crouched low and prepared to spring upon its prey! The pair of gables at the front look so much like cat’s ears, don’t they?

    Chapter Nine of The Final Reckoning never fails to leave me in awe. By which I mean to say that the outcome of the rat exodus leaves me stricken with horrified awe, and the joyous reunions which take place in the Skirtings make me sigh “Aaaaaawwwww!” with delight.

    I’m not kidding. The journey of the London rats really does remind me of the Exodus. An enormous group of people are inspired by a prophet to embark on a gruelling journey with the promise that they will all live happily ever after in a wonderful paradise. Of course, The Final Reckoning puts its own spin on the Biblical tale and that spin is dark and twisted. In this case, the group of journeymen are no slaves desperate to escape from their cruel masters, but rather a barbarian horde, fresh from having slain dozens of peace-loving mice who never harmed them in any way. The prophet in whom they have placed their faith truly does speak for a God. But as the rats will discover, much too late, this deity has a much more horrific reward in mind for them than eternal happiness. And when the travellers reach journey’s end, it is to discover that their suffering has brought them not to the promised land. What they have found is a frozen tomb where they are all slain without mercy.

    I’m with Aufwader in jumping out of my seat when Barker whispers to Kelly’s corpse that Hobb will be delighted to meet him on the other side. It’s so unexpected! And why would a random rat from London know that name? We might want to keep a wary eye on him and a hand on the knives at our belts…

    Morgan leads his followers across the frozen wasteland to the power station, which has been looming over the events of Book Three like a wicked shadow. The piebald rat is gleefully aware of whom that shadow belongs to. But the rat army is bewildered to stand within the building which has been so claimed by the bitter winter that it now bears much more resemblance to a frozen cavern than anything made by man.

    Let’s take a moment to consider the power station itself, shall we? As the rats clamber through a jagged hole in the corner of the broken window, we discover what this place looks like now that Jupiter has taken up residence within. Somebody once told me that a home serves as a reflection of the person who lives there. And what story does the power station tells us about Jupiter? Ghostly mist enshrouds the air, hiding the true purpose of the Genius Of The Bitter Winter. The floor and walls are all covered with frost, speaking of his cold heart. And dangling from the ceiling like spikes are monstrous icicles, warning all who dare to trespass in the hall of how perilous it is to come anywhere near him. Yes, there’s no doubt that this is a dream home for Jupiter and a nightmare come true for the rats who have walked into it. Does anyone else notice the creepy similarity between the broken window in the power station and the infamous Grill? Both have a hole in one corner and both are gateways to Jupiter’s domain. And just like the mice who were foolish enough to pass through The Grill, the rats are doomed from the moment they stand on the other side of the window. Wherever Jupiter calls home, he makes the rules and violators are doomed to die horribly.

    Morgan announces his true intentions to the incredulous horde: he has tricked them into coming here so that they may serve a new master. A master whose evil eclipses his own without contest. Realising how badly their faith was misplaced, the rats surge forward, bent on tearing their glorious leader to pieces. But the truth of Morgan’s words is made horribly clear. Jupiter reveals himself, assuming the form of two huge demonic eyes.

    As a monstrous parody of a satisfied purr blows through their fur, the rats scream and try to flee from this nightmare. But there is no escape. The rats were promised a massacre and Jupiter is none other than delighted to make their wish come true. The icicles dangling from the ceiling have been poised in readiness for their moment to come and now it does. They fall in a deadly rain and the screams are silenced as every single rat lies cold and still beneath them, each impaled by a spear of ice.

    In a stroke of deadly irony, the same rat who goaded them into killing all the mice has now led them to their own deaths. The mice lie slain and so do their murderers. But nothing has changed. The massacre of the rat army does not bring back the mice who were murdered by them. You don’t get the sense that everything is going to be okay now. Not one little bit. Instead, you feel as though the nightmare has only just begun.

    In the blink of an eye, the story has been turned upside-down. The question of why Jupiter should want Morgan to bring his army to Deptford was gnawing on all our minds but now that the answer has come, all we are left with in its wake is a new question. What could he possibly hope to gain from killing the rats? Does he enjoy dealing out death for its own sake? Just what is going on?

    Piccadilly has been watching in disbelief from the broken window. The grey mouse is so aghast that he fails to notice the expression which has stolen over the face of Barker. The old rat seems deeply impressed by the Unbeest’s might. Okay, something reeeeeeally isn’t right about him. But Piccadilly is far too caught up in what just happened before his eyes to stop and question the motives of the person who’s right next to him. A person he only just met a few days ago and doesn’t really know anything about at all…

    As Morgan falls to his knees in an agony of grief, the parallels between him and Piccadilly seem to be growing. They have both been called back to Deptford by forces neither of them can resist and both their lives have been destroyed by senseless cruelty. Although one is a genocidal madman and the other is a hero determined to bring an end to his regime, they have an undeniable bond which is the trauma they share. Piccadilly is the last survivor of his people and now the same has become true for Morgan.

    Perhaps the most unsettling thing about this slaughter is what it reveals about Morgan. For the first time ever, the piebald rat is shown to feel guilt about something he has done. To Piccadilly, those rats were bloodthirsty killers, but to Morgan, they were his loyal lads. They looked up to him like sons admire their father. Yet he has led them to their deaths and this rat, whom we know has dipped his claws in the blood of so many innocent creatures, is weeping with remorse for what he has done. Morgan has a heart. Like every other part of him, it is twisted with evil, but he has it and now it writhes in anguish. His life has been destroyed and he finds himself enslaved once more by Jupiter, whom he thought he had escaped forever.

    In stark contrast with the horrors of the power station, what happens in the Skirtings brings me the same delight I feel when presented with a bowl of my favourite dessert. As Thomas and Arthur return safely from their mission, they are greeted by a sigh of overwhelming relief from their friends and hugs aplenty from Audrey and Gwen. Audrey even giggles when Thomas apologises chivalrously to Gwen for having taken Arthur with him to Greenwich. After the hopelessness which has crept into the hearts of the mice since the Yule festival, the lovely sound of laughter has got to be the most magical thing they could possibly experience.

    Thomas confronts the Starwife, demanding that she tell him what’s going on. He knows how wise she is. She sat upon the Oaken Throne and studied the ancient wisdom of the Heavens for centuries. She’s got to have some insight into what Jupiter’s planning to do and yet she seems gagged by hesitation, too terrified to say it out loud.

    With excellent reason as it turns out. Glaring at the midshipmouse, the Handmaiden of Orion grants his wish and a gasp of fear is heard throughout the Skirtings as the horrifying truth is laid bare. Jupiter captured the celestial court to prove to himself that the Starglass was truly capable of accomplishing something so powerful. What the people of this world witnessed that night was a test run and soon the Unbeest will carry out his true purpose.

    The next time he raises the Starglass in his monstrous claw, Jupiter will drain away the precious light of the sun itself.

    The world will be plunged into an eternal darkness no creature can survive.

    That is the evil masterpiece Jupiter has been planning since his return.

    The end of all life.

    I am in awe. This is it. The most diabolical plan an evil genius has ever devised. When you think about it, Jupiter is not just going to destroy the world. He’s wiping the board clean so that he can create a whole new world that suits his own desires. A world he will rule forever. “Let there be darkness. And cold. Such beautiful, beautiful cold.”

    This is terrifying and so ambitiously evil that I’m powerless to resist my urge to clap for the Unbeest! Destroy us, Jupiter! Destroy us!

    Audrey steps forward to prove how much she rocks once more. As the other mice fall into despair, it is she alone who insists that they can’t give up. There must be something they can do to stop this from happening. If anyone can prevent the end of the world, it has to be mice, the ultimate survivors.

    Even The Starwife seems to have lost the will to continue the fight. As Audrey hugs the squirrel queen like she’s comforting her own grandmother, an unspoken question hangs in the air. Is this the end?

    The mice have finished picking up their jaws when a familiar voice rings out and they drop them all over again.

    Guess who’s back, Mouseketeers? Go on, guess!

    Oh what the heck, I’ll just tell you! I’m too excited to contain myself!

    PICCADILLY POWER!

    Our wishes have finally been answered. The grey mouse is in the house and the mice of The Skirtings come running from every direction to shake him by the paw and thump his back. But Piccadilly has eyes for one mousemaid alone. Audrey makes her way through the eager crowd and…and I’m sorry. I really am. But I refuse to believe that anyone’s heart doesn’t melt as she smiles and says that she missed him so much. I’ve been waiting for this moment since a misunderstanding tore them apart in Book Two and now I’m hugging myself with joy. But before Piccadilly can think of an answer to give Audrey, which is a shame since I’m dying to know what he’d have come up with, he remembers that he didn’t come here alone.

    Barker comes bursting in on this scene of happy reunion which descends into total chaos as the mice scramble to get away from the rat who has surely come to eat them alive. My favorite part of the ensuing slapstick comes when Barker sends a bowl of cabbage soup flying in Algy’s face. Remember when Algy was moaning about the lack of food? How he said he didn’t want to spend all Winter surviving on cabbage soup? It looks like the cabbage soup heard that and has been biding its time, Algy!

    The madcap mayhem ends abruptly when Barker comes face-to-face with The Starwife. As she coolly appraises the new arrival, something happens that she didn’t expect. She fails to read his mind. And judging by the way Barker’s mask slips, giving way to a flash of enmity for the squirrel queen, it would appear that he understands what she just tried to do. The war of wills between the squirrel and the rat ends when Piccadilly collars Barker, apologising for his behaviour. But the curiosity of the reader only continues as we wonder more and more about what the deal is with Barker who has just been revealed to be a match for the formidable Starwife.

    Stories are traded as Piccadilly and the other mice sit down and relax. Awww! Look at the way he and Audrey keep glancing at each other shyly across the fire! Every mouse in The Skirtings has got to be nudging one another and smiling knowingly at this silent dance of loving gazes! Piccadilly’s face must be so red and the fire can’t possibly be responsible, now can it?

    Since the world isn’t going to save itself for eternal darkness, the mice put their heads together to figure out a way of dealing with Jupiter. While various observations (“He’s dead. So we can’t kill him.”) are raised and tossed aside, a possible solution to their Unbeestly problem comes from the least likely source imaginable. Barker bleats that he saw a mousebrass hanging around Morgan’s neck and the mice recognise his description of it immediately. Audrey’s brass.

    Wait just a second…WHAT? Didn’t Audrey’s mousebrass kinda EXPLODE when she flung it in Jupiter’s face? Why is it still in one piece? I puzzled over this for quite some time and what I came up with is that the amulet didn’t literally explode. Perhaps the emerald fire worked like a magical force-field that was generated when it came into contact with a supremely evil being like Jupiter and it was so intense that it SEEMED like an explosion to the mice who saw the whole thing happen? That makes sense to me although I’d love to know what the rest of you think!

    Cast your minds back to Book One and focus on the suspenseful moments after Jupiter’s tail swept Morgan from the ledge and sent him wailing into the river of sewer water far below. While he was bobbing up and down in a desperate struggle to stay afloat, did the piebald rat look up and witness the epic moment when Audrey struck Jupiter with her anti-cat charm? That would explain why he favours the amulet so much, calling it his good luck charm. He thought that he owed his new-found freedom to this mysterious magical thing which destroyed Jupiter forever. Or so he believed at the time.

    You know, all this talk of the mousebrass raises another interesting (if somewhat more morbid) point. Would the charm have worked if Audrey never threw it at Jupiter? If it stayed firmly in place around her neck, would he have succeeded in swallowing her whole? Would the mousebrass have exploded in his stomach and burned him from within? If so, I’ve just got to say OUCH!

    Piccadilly’s return has brought a renewal of hope to the Skirtings.

    The Deptford Mice have a plan.

    Head up to the power station, grab Morgan, yank the mousebrass from around his filthy neck and use it to send Jupiter back to Hell once and for all.

    What could possibly go wrong?

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  2. If Smiff and Kelly weren’t so revolting, I would feel bad for them. Did they seriously believe they could get the better of Morgan? Pffft. Oh please. The gruesome twosome had no idea who they were messing with. None at all. Morgan was the henchrat of Jupiter himself for years. They thought they were so tough when really they were a pair of goldfish to his great white shark and he naturally ate them alive.

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