- “For this story I wanted a change of pace, slowly building up an atmosphere of tension and fear. I was particularly pleased with the murderer (not giving the identity away for those of you who haven't read it yet) who lurked in the cornfield.”
- ―Robin Jarvis
The Crystal Prison is the second novel in The Deptford Mice trilogy by Robin Jarvis. The book was first published in 1989 by Macdonald & Company in London.
Book description Edit
After the events of The Dark Portal, Oswald Chitter is ill and but hours from death. While taking care of him, Oswald's parents too begin to fall into sickness. The bold midshipmouse, Thomas Triton arrives suddenly, telling Audrey Brown that she must join him on a journey to Greenwich to speak to the Starwife. Audrey and Thomas set off, followed by Twit, whom Thomas has come to regard as a best friend.
Upon their arrival, they are told by the Starwife that the Chitters will all perish by the end of the night unless Audrey agrees to take the now mad Madame Akkikuyu to live in Twit's field and remain with her until she dies. Audrey grudgingly agrees and after breaking the news to her family, her brother Arthur volunteers to accompany her to Fennywolde. Although Oswald makes a full recovery, Audrey is unable to share in the happiness of the others.
Audrey, Arthur, Twit and Madame Akkikuyu (who believes Audrey to be her best friend) are taken to Fennywolde by a traveling mouse peddler, Kempe. Upon their arrival, they are introduced to numerous fieldmice—Twit's parents Elijah and Gladwin Scuttle, Jenkin Nettle, a friend of Twit's, and his cruel, religious father, Isaac, the King of the Field, Mr. Woodruffe, Alison Sedge, a flirtatious beauty, and a group of young friends, Samuel Gorse, Young Whortle Nep, Hodge, Todkin and Figgy Bottom.
Samuel and Whortle adventure into the woods and are attacked by the vicious owl Mahooot and are both badly injured, particularly Samuel. Madame Akkikuyu saves them and sends the owl fleeing for his life, earning the respect of the simple fieldmice. She later makes a potion for them, which, despite Audrey's objections, successfully cures the boys.
Audrey engages herself in creating a corn dolly but Alison Sedge, jealous of the town mouse's beauty and fine clothes, gives word to Isaac Nettle. Nettle tosses the thing away, denouncing it as blasphemy.
While Twit and Jenkin assist Arthur in becoming one of the respected sentries of Fennywolde, Madame Akkikuyu is disturbed by voices in her head, which are revealed to be a spirit who calls himself Nicodemus, who is in limbo and craves freedom. To prove his powers to Akkikuyu, he tells her to find the discarded corn dolly and when she does, he casts a spell to give it life.
Soon after, Arthur discovers the body of young Hodge in the corn fields, strangled to death. A few of the Fennywolders accuse the town mice, Audrey in particular, of bringing bad luck on the peaceful field and the young mouse is resented by most of the locals, especially Isaac Nettle.
Jenkin asks Audrey for her paw in marriage but she can't accept, still remembering the love she has for Piccadilly. When Mahooot the owl swoops down on them, Jenkin throws Audrey out of the way, saving her life but is too late to save himself. He is carried off by the owl and despite Madame Akkikuyu's relentless onslaught at Mahooot, he kills Jenkin and Isaac Nettle becomes more bitter than ever.
Nicodemus tells Madame Akkikuyu that to release him from his prison, a girl without a mousebrass would have to cross over to the other side in his stead. He also requires a special sort of mousebrass made in hatred. Akkikuyu realises that he is hinting that Audrey is the one to be sacrificed and reluctantly agrees to do his bidding, and talks the depressed and weakly mad Isaac Nettle into creating the evil brass after he discovers Jenkin's mousebrass in an owl pellet.
The fieldmice discover the corn dolly—the murderer of both Whortle and Hodge—and recognising it at Audrey's creation, proceed to hang her for being a witch. Twit, however, reminds all that if a Fennywolder agrees to marry a witch, the offender would not be allowed to be hanged, under the laws of The Green Mouse. Furthermore, he agrees to marry his friend to save her and both are blessed by Woodruffe and Akkikuyu (much to the anger of Nicodemus), rendering Audrey under the protection of the Green and unable to be sacrificed by Nicodemus. Twit's bravery and wisdom comes at a price—he must be banished from Fennywolde.
Now Nicodemus sets his sights on Alison Sedge, who has, in grief over Jenkin's death, thrown her mousebrass away and is now a perfect candidate for the sacrifice. Akkikuyu talks the unknowing Alison into coming along with her, saying that she will cast a spell against Audrey. Alison soon finds out differently and halfway through the ceremony, Nicodemus reveals that he is in fact Jupiter, and that he will inhabit Akkikuyu's body as soon as he is freed from her crystal ball. In a last bid for redemption, Madame Akkikuyu leaps into the flames, saving Alison and holding Jupiter imprisoned for the time being. A fire suddenly rages through Fennywolde and it takes many days for it to be put under control.
Now that Akkikuyu is dead, Audrey's deal with the Starwife is void and she plans to return home with Arthur, although Twit decides to stay in his field to rebuild it to its former glory. Audrey leaves her husband and returns home to the Skirtings.
Some time later, Jupiter's prison is smashed unwittingly by Alison Sedge and he swoops into the air, vowing revenge on those who opposed him...
Prologue: Smoke Over Deptford Edit
On a hot day in Deptford, a terrible stench hangs in the air. It is a strongest at a building site near the river. One of the human builders discovers the source of the foul odour - the rotting body of a horrific giant cat. It is Jupiter, whose corpse washed up from the sewers. The man who found him lifts his grisly discovery with a shovel and tosses it into the building site's bonfire. A thick, dark smoke rises from the flames and hangs over Deptford for two days before a summer breeze blows it away on the third morning.
Chapter 1: The Summons EditOswald Chitter has been gravely ill for weeks. Ever since he had emerged from the sewers after the battle against Jupiter he had felt unwell. At first it was believed that he had merely caught a cold, and he was scolded by his mother for it. But his condition did not improve and he grew progressively weaker. In caring for him, Oswald's parents had themselves become ill. From then on Gwen Brown has taken charge of Oswald and his mother whilst Twit tends to his uncle, Oswald's father.
All the mice help and offer prayers for the Chitter family. They are grateful to Oswald and his friends for delivering them from the menace of Jupiter and making their lives easier. One morning, it looks as though Oswald won't be able to hang on much longer. Arthur and Piccadilly discuss the grave situation, and the latter says that he will be returning to the city upon Oswald's passing. Arthur tells him that he'll be missed, and casually remarks that he believes Audrey will miss Piccadilly most of all. The city mouse is incredulous, as he has assumed she still hates him.
They meet Audrey outside the room, and Twit arrives to inform them all that Oswald is still alive, though just barely. He and Gwen Brown are exhausted, having stayed up the night before looking after their charges. Audrey offers to take over, and tells Piccadilly to put Twit in Arthur's bed. She reassures the little fieldmouse that she'll wake him if anything happens.
Audrey goes to Oswald's sickroom and he greets her weakly. She tries to comfort him, wracked with guilt because she was the one who sent him and Piccadilly into the sewers to retrieve her mousebrass. He doubts that he will live to get his brass, and wonders aloud what it might have been. Bursting into tears, Audrey replies that it would have been the sign of utmost bravery.
There is a knock at the main entrance. Audrey goes to answer the door and finds that it is Thomas Triton. He says that he was expecting her mother, but that she was the one he wanted to see anyway. He asks about Oswald, and Audrey tells him that he is no better. Thomas declines her offer to take him to see the albino, as he's seen enough deaths due to the fever. Arthur comes up to them and says that Piccadilly is having trouble putting Twit to bed as he refuses to settle down. Thomas charges into the bedroom, telling Twit to get up because "there's folk to see".
Audrey protests as Twit has only just gone to bed, but Thomas replies that she had better make herself presentable because the Starwife wishes to see her. Remembering Oswald, Twit says he can't come because he wants to be there when his cousin passes on. Thomas promises that they'll be back in time to say goodbye to Oswald, and Twit agrees to go. Thomas, Audrey, and Twit set off to Greenwich.
Chapter 2: The Starwife EditTwit and Audrey are shocked when Thomas leads them down into the cellar and toward the Grille. The midshipmouse reminds them with a laugh that Jupiter is dead, and the evil spells he cast on the grating are gone. Thomas says the quickest way to Greenwich is through the sewers.
As they continue on, Audrey asks Thomas to tell her about the Starwife. She has never heard of her and has no idea why the squirrel queen would want to see her. Thomas guesses that the Starwife wants to hear the story of Jupiter's downfall from the one who defeated him. He tells Audrey that he met the Starwife once, when he first settled in Greenwich. There were matters he needed to talk to her about, but he doesn't elaborate on them. Thomas recalls how nervous he was, and though he ended up feeling better after speaking to the Starwife, she was quite intimidating.
Audrey is frightened and expresses her desire to turn back, but Thomas tells her that she's come this far and is expected. He reassures her, saying that perhaps the "old boot" has mellowed since he saw her.
Finally arriving in Greenwich Park, Thomas informs the others that they must wait for their escort. With how skittish the grey squirrels are, it may take hours for one to get up enough nerve to lead them to the Starwife. Twit reminds Thomas that Oswald is fading fast, and so the midshipmouse fires a stone upward. Startled, a squirrel named Piers falls from the branches above. He is indignant but proceeds to lead the group to an ancient oak tree. They follow him down a cleft in the trunk, through narrow passages to a banner embroidered with stars.
One by one, Thomas, Twit, and Audrey are shown past the banner and in to the Starwife's chamber. She is angry that Twit has come along in spite of not being invited, but Thomas explains that he brought the fieldmouse as he needed a break. In response, the Starwife wonders aloud why Thomas is so fond of Twit, asking him who he sees in the fieldmouse. The Starwife also mockingly uses terms that Thomas used to describe her (a spider and an old boot) as she talks with him.
Overhearing all this, Audrey's first impression of the Starwife is that she is a rude old battleaxe. Still, she tells the old squirrel all about the events of Jupiter's downfall, which is one of two reasons the Starwife sent for her. The other involves a creature found wandering aimlessly in Greenwich Park, referred to as a "gibbering ghost" by the subjects of the Starwife. This creature was in a terrible state, having not eaten for many days. The Starwife questioned her but could learn very little, and informs Audrey that the mouse has told her more about this strange guest than she did herself. The squirrel queen sends Piers to fetch the guest as a suspicion creeps into Audrey's mind, one that is confirmed when she hears a familiar voice. Piers returns followed by Madame Akkikuyu.
Chapter 3: The Bargain EditAs Madame Akkikuyu enters, Audrey observes that she is a pitiful figure now. She is malnourished and her fur is falling out. The Starwife tells Akkikuyu that there are friends of hers there. Looking from Thomas to Twit, she can recognise neither of them. Then her eyes fall on Audrey, and she freezes, knowing that she has seen her somewhere before. Jumbled memories flash through her mind, and the strongest of all is the moment she told the young mouse that they should run away and be happy in the summer sunlight. She cannot understand what happened to that wonderful plan, and asks Audrey why they never did as she had said.
Audrey says nothing, but she knows that Akkikuyu had been taking her to Jupiter when the idea of escaping to the summer sunlight had first come to her. Morgan, Jupiter's henchrat had interrupted them and Akkikuyu was forced to carry out his orders.
Much to Audrey's shock, the Starwife tells Akkikuyu that she will indeed leave with the mouse girl. The excited rat goes to prepare for her trip. Appalled, Audrey turns to the Starwife and expresses her disgust at the squirrel falsely building up Akkikuyu's hopes. However, the Starwife assures her that it was not a lie as Audrey is indeed going to leave with the rat. Audrey scoffs at this, but the Starwife silences her and explains that as Twit plans to return to Fennywolde soon, she has decided that that will be the perfect place for Akkikuyu to go.
Twit pipes up that he can't go back to Fennywolde so soon, remembering the rapidly fading Oswald. The Starwife coldly informs him that Oswald will die before the day is out, and reveals the source of her information... the Starglass, a magical disc of black glass with which she can see the future. The Starwife says that she has used it to look into the heart of Akkikuyu and found no evil there. She has also seen an important future for the rat. The Starwife knows that Akkikuyu will make two choices in her life that will affect everyone. She wants Audrey to be there to watch over her as some good may come of it.
Still Audrey refuses to go live with Akkikuyu in the country. The Starwife performs a ritual at the Starglass with the reluctant aid of Twit. Magical starlight is sucked into a bag, and the old squirrel says that it has the power to heal Oswald. Drained from the ritual, she once again asks if Audrey will take Akkikuyu away... though now she refuses to let the group of mice take the bag with them unless the girl does so. With Oswald's life hanging in the balance, Audrey is forced to agree. The Starwife also warns that if Audrey goes back on the bargain even after Oswald is cured, he will fall sick again. Taking her leave of the Starwife, Audrey calls the squirrel cruel for what she's making her do. Audrey cries to herself because she does not want to leave Deptford.
Chapter 4: A Draught of Starlight EditIn the Skirtings, Oswald is edging closer to death. Arthur tells Piccadilly to go and rouse the former's mother as he believes this will be it. Piccadilly is exasperated and attempting to answer the concerned queries of the gathering crowd of mice.
Gwen arrives in the sickroom and confirms that this is indeed the crisis, and Oswald hasn't the strength to fight it. Arthur lets it slip that Thomas has taken Twit and Audrey to Greenwich, and Gwen is at first furious. When she is told of Thomas's persistence in getting the two young mice to go with him and the fact that the Starwife wanted to see Audrey, she is more understanding, though she adds that if she had been awake she'd not have let her daughter go.
By evening, Thomas, Twit, and Audrey return to the Skirtings. Twit's joyous attitude bewilders the mice who are keeping solemn vigil outside of Oswald's sickroom. Audrey explains to Piccadilly that Twit is all right, just happy because Oswald will be cured. Piccadilly reminds her that there is no way to save him, but she responds in a sombre voice that there is indeed one way.
The magical bag of the Starwife is steeped in hot water, and Twit attempts to give it to Oswald. But he is too weak to drink and the water drips down onto the pillow. Then, after Twit sadly repeats Oswald's name three times, the albino begins to drink. Everyone is delighted as Oswald and his parents make a full recovery, but Audrey's happiness is tempered by the fact that she must fulfill the Starwife's bargain. She tells Arthur and their mother that she must leave with Madame Akkikuyu and stay with the rat forever. They are saddened, and though Gwen asks Thomas if there's any way to release Audrey from the bargain, he gravely tells her no. Arthur offers to accompany his sister to Fennywolde to see that she's settled.
The Chitters' miraculous return to health is cause for the mice of the Skirtings to celebrate. Musicians start playing and a dance is held. It occurs to Audrey that she has not yet informed Piccadilly of the bargain she must keep, and wonders if he might come to Fennywolde as well to keep her company. To her dismay, she sees him dancing with Nel Poot, and becomes even more annoyed when he chooses her as his partner four times. Having caught her glance, Piccadilly saunters over to Audrey and asks what she wants. She tells him that she only wanted to say goodbye to him and thank him for all he's done for her and her family. She adds that she and Arthur will be leaving with Twit to go to his field, and that Piccadilly can wave them off if he likes.
Piccadilly is stung by her attitude and Audrey herself can't understand why she is being so cruel. She wonders if the Starwife put a spell on her too. Angrily, Piccadilly replies that he will be returning to the city the next day as Oswald is better and there's nothing else to keep him there. Excusing himself, he rejoins the dancers as tears fill Audrey's eyes. She slips away to her room, heartbroken.
Eventually, Piccadilly is left alone in the hall. He weeps silently beneath the crescent summer moon.
Chapter 5: A Meeting at Midnight EditPiccadilly rises from his bed before dawn and silently departs, leaving a note to thank the Browns and explain that he has returned to the city. When Audrey is later given the note and reads it, she knows that Piccadilly has left because she hurt his feelings, and guilt overwhelms her.
In the sickroom, Oswald is sitting up listening to Twit tell him funny stories. His mother will not let him leave the bed until she is entirely satisfied with his health. When Arthur enters, Oswald says he is jealous that he, Audrey, and Twit are going to Fennywolde. Twit gives Arthur a cautionary glance and he understands that Oswald has not been told of the Starwife's bargain.
Though the trio of mice were to go to Fennywolde the following day, Thomas arrives and informs them that the plans have been slightly changed. As none of the Starwife's subjects are willing to escort Madame Akkikuyu to the river in the daylight, they are leaving that very night. Thomas says that a merchant mouse named Kempe has been persuaded to guide Audrey, Arthur, and Twit to Fennywolde. Gwen knows of Kempe and feels better knowing that he will be looking after her children.
At midnight, the mice travel to Greenwich Pier where they meet up with Kempe. As it turns out, he has not been told who else will be joining them, and is outraged when Madame Akkikuyu arrives. One of the squirrels with her reminds the pedlar that he has given his traveller's oath, and if he backs out all the river will know of his falseness. Not wanting his reputation ruined, Kempe is forced to agree to the Starwife's terms.
Gwen and Thomas take their leave of Audrey, Arthur, Twit, and Akkikuyu. The group boards a tourist cruiser, which will take them part of the way. They settle in the hold. Kempe shows Arthur and Twit a set of seven wooden charms he received in payment for two spoons and a length of buttercup yellow satin. The younger mice marvel at the intricate figures, delicately carved in boxwood. Twit says there's nothing like it in his field, and Kempe says he is not surprised, and that he never goes there. When Arthur asks why, Kempe explains that the last time he was in Fennywolde, he was chased out by a pious mouse shouting about his wares being vanities.
Arthur is confused, and Twit explains that there are a few in Fennywolde who are 'staunch Green Mousers' and hate anything that supposedly goes against the design of the Green Mouse. It occurs to Arthur that his sister wears bells and lace, and he wonders what those few will make of her.
Meanwhile, Audrey is standing at the railing on deck. Madame Akkikuyu joins her and they have a conversation. Akkikuyu tells Audrey of the odd things she's found among her belongings; leaves and herbs, secret packets that smell strangely and a grisly trophy of a kitten's head. She can't remember who she was, or why she has all those things. She hugs Audrey, who feels a pang of pity for her.
Later that night, Akkikuyu hears a mysterious voice calling her name in her dreams.
Chapter 6: Fennywolde Edit
Chapter 7: The Hall of Corn Edit
Chapter 8: The Voice Edit
Chapter 9: Mould to Mould Edit
Chapter 10: Midsummer's Eve Edit
Chapter 11: Magic and Murder Edit
Chapter 12: Hunters in the Night Edit
Chapter 14: The Sacrifice Edit
Epilogue: Summer's End Edit
Character listing Edit
The Dark Portal Edit
The Crystal Prison is the second book in the story of the Deptford Mice, which began with The Dark Portal. In Book One, Audrey and Arthur Brown, two innocent town mice, are drawn into the sewers beneath the streets of Deptford in search of Audrey's mousebrass - a magical charm given to her by the Green Mouse, the mystical spirit of spring. Deep within the underground tunnels, the two mice discover the nightmare realm of Jupiter, the unseen but terrifying lord of the rats.
Audrey and Arthur are helped by a number of characters: Oswald, a sickly albino mouse often mistaken for a rat; Twit, Oswald's cousin and a simple country mouse; Piccadilly, a cheeky young mouse from the city; and Madame Akkikuyu, a black rat who ekes out a living peddling potions and telling phoney fortunes.
The Deptford Mice discover that Jupiter is concocting a terrible plan - to release the Black Death upon London once again. However, with the help of the Green Mouse, the mice confound Jupiter's plot and lure him out of his lair. To their horror, they discover that Jupiter is not a rat at all, but a monstrous cat, grown bloated and evil by years of hatred in the sewers.
Audrey throws her mousebrass into Jupiter's face; it explodes and sends the giant cat tumbling into the deep sewer water. As he struggles to save himself, the souls of his many victims rise out the waves and drag him down to a watery death.