In the first part of the twelfth chapter of The Book of Night With Moon, Rhiow comes to a shocking realization. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Feline Wizards.
You know, my brain is a special thing sometimes. I don’t know how I read the end of the last chapter and thought, “Hey, the rogue wizard is the one on Ordeal!” It’s so obvious that this is a misreading of the text because all the signs that Ith is the wizard on Ordeal are right there. A young wizard sent on a dangerous, confusing task, whose motives seem confusing and bewildering to outsiders, who had to recite an Oath before it all began… holy shit.
Ith is on Ordeal.
ITH IS A SAURIAN WIZARD.
But I do actually understood why this confused me. Up to this point, Rhiow and the other feline wizards have been adamant about the fact that there are no saurian wizards. It’s been stated as fact multiple times thus far, and it’s always been said with certainty. And why would these characters ever doubt this fact? That’s the whole point. They didn’t know what had happened long ago, and that makes for a fascinating element to The Book of Night With Moon. Technically, Rhiow is an unreliable narrator who doesn’t know that she’s unreliable. She’s been spewing a falsehood because she didn’t know any better! There’s no malice in it either. It’s just what she’s been taught and she observed. So at the end of the last chapter, my mind simply assumed that this rogue wizard was the one on Ordeal and had recited the Oath not as an offer to Ith, but because they themselves were a wizard… on Ordeal? Okay, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in hindsight. I TRIED, OKAY.
Anyway, let’s jump into this, because there’s so much more to this reveal that I’m eager to talk about. Namely, though, I need to shriek at all of you because I’m obsessed with the growing friendship between Ith and Arhu. Seriously, I can’t read anything else into this:
Rhiow glanced ahead at Arhu, half-expecting some reaction along the lines of “You’ve been to Mars?”—but he was paying no attention. He and Ith were still walking together, talking quietly. The temptation to eavesdrop was almost irresistible. Two wizards on Ordeal, one of them almost certainly the first of his species: what was going on? Impossible to tell, but their body language had not warmed in the slightest. The brains holding this discussion might belong to wizards, both part of the same kinship—but the bodies were those of cat and serpent, distrusting one another profoundly.
Oh my god, THERE IS SO MUCH TO UNPACK HERE. It is amazing to me that the kinship starts at all, but that’s what often happens when there is a shared experience. And in this case, these two characters have to bridge a divide that has divided their species for ages. WHICH IS ALSO INCREDIBLY CRUCIAL TO THE MYTHOLOGY OF THIS BOOK, OH MY GOD. So, yes, I want you to know that I am so completely taken in by these characters becoming friends, but it’s also a masterful bit of foreshadowing for Rhiow’s epiphany. That’s one of the reasons this is so fraught and why their body language speaks to the complexity of it all. They have an instinctual distrust of one another; both characters were fed a deeply vital story about how the other one is their enemy. The serpent imagery is intrinsic to the story of the People’s Choice, and the Great One poisoned all the minds of the saurians to despise those who lived under the sun. And yet, before our very eyes, a saurian and a feline are getting along. Not only that, but MULTIPLE TIMES, Urruah has to tell these two characters to shut the hell up because they can’t stop talking. Y’all, it’s like two people at a sleepover who are just so thrilled to be in each other’s presence and the parents have to keep popping in to tell them to go to sleep. IT’S THAT EXACT SAME DYNAMIC, I KNOW IT.
What’s so exciting about this is that Ith appears to be the first saurian who was brave enough to break from the pack. I understand why that’s the case, too, given how this society was organized. They all lived under the threat of becoming a meal for someone else, and when that threat hangs over your head, it’s easy to see why everyone always stayed in line. Ith is different, though, and his story of how he chose not to eat another saurian and to escape the gaze of other saurians was riveting. Ith doesn’t even know how important this change might be to the saurians as a whole!
Which brings me to Rhiow’s epiphany. I love a plot twist that makes perfect sense but never once occurred to me, and that perfectly describes this. Holy shit, there was a reason that the Oath that Ith heard seemed so similar to the one for the People. There’s a reason why no one even considered that there were saurian wizards. There’s a reason why the saurians and the People hated one another; IT WAS MOST LIKELY DESIGNED THAT WAY. Or maybe “designed” is the wrong word. Rhiow’s theory—that the Lone One tricked the Wise Ones into believing that they had completed their Choice when they most definitely had not—suggests that these two developed an enmity over time that could have been prevented had their species’ not been torn apart. But this horrible reality was not even a possibility in my mind! I didn’t know the Lone One could do something like this! IT’S SO FUCKED UP. Even worse so because of what this means for Rhiow and her people:
And the choice was plain. Choose one way, refuse your species’ help, and drive the serpents out into the cold and the dark, damning them all. Let life be as it is, unchanged and stable, to be relied upon.
Choose another way and lose your species’ autonomy forever, or whatever illusion of it you have had until now. The People’s whole proud history becomes merely a footnote, a preliminary to the advent of these newborns, unable to make their own way without help. Turn your kind into midwives to a race that had its chance and lost it, a million years ago.
An entire reinvention of the myth of the People. If I understand this correctly, this would change history, wouldn’t it? It would rewrite an origin story and a Choice because the People would have to have been involved in the Choice for the saurians. It’s not like this is something that Rhiow can just ignore. Oh, no, Iau made that abundantly clear:
Iau, why are you dumping this on me?
You were there, came the answer, definite and instantaneous, its Source unmistakable. Or rather: You were not there. You are there now.
It’s so immense and overwhelming, and lord, this line knocked me down flat. It wasn’t lost on me that such a huge thing landed in Rhiow’s lap at this specific moment:
Unfair, that at the time when I would most like to die, I must now fight hardest to live longest.
The Powers That Be don’t fuck around, y’all. Nothing is a coincidence, and they care not for what might inconvenience a wizard. It’s tough, obviously, and I don’t envy Rhiow this choice. Someone is going to die, and if it’s a single member of the team, then all of them are stuck in the Downsides, locked out of time and their home, never to return. But Rhiow can’t ignore this. No, she won’t ignore this. She’s here, she’s seen the injustice, and she’s going to do what she can to right it.
Mark Links Stuff