In the third part of the thirteenth chapter of The Book of Night With Moon, the myth is reborn. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Feline Wizards.
It’s so satisfying to me to see how the concept of choice is tied intricately into this narrative. This was not simply a repeat of a legend that these wizards had to participate in. Choice still matters so to this narrative. In that respect, this reminded me of the Song of the Twelve, though the context is very different. But there’s a story playing out here, and it absolutely matters that each of these wizards made a decision to be a part of that.
Yet I can’t ignore the crucial difference here: Arhu wanted to reinvent all of this. He wanted to tell the same story, but change the ending. Why make the same mistakes? Why allow the tale to unfold in the same way again? Once Rhiow unleashed that spell, she helped to alter the narrative, first by bringing Iau into her. And I love how visceral this came across; it helped me to get a sense of the immense and unfathomable power that ripped through Rhiow’s body. She was a God, one of the Powers That Be, and it is the closest look we’ve gotten at these beings in a while. We’ve seen lots of the One’s Champion, but FIVE of them at ONCE? It’s unreal. It’s a treat. And Duane does not disappoint us: as the Powers enter the bodies of these wizards, they’re given life anew. Look, if you’re gonna “undo” major character deaths, THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT: allow Gods to raise them from Death to fight anew.
Aaurh becomes Saash, and the fire that destroyed her body burns backward, which is REALLY FUCKING COOL. Plus, they’re cats! I bought the tension and the horror of their deaths, but they have nine lives. Coming back to life is part of the deal, so I don’t feel this is a cop-out in the slightest. Rather, this is the logical progression of this story. Aaurh returns, followed by sa’Rrahh in Arhu (which is probably my favorite part), and lastly, the Old Tom, Urrua, becomes our favorite, irascible tom, Urruah. The transformation of Urruah alone is worth everything because:
That shape stood up, and was a panther’s shape, heavy-jowled and white-fanged, with unsheathed claws that burned and left molten spots on any stone they touched.
YES. HELL YES. THIS IS AMAZING. So, Duane sets up one hell of a fight, and then immediately subverts our expectations. How? Well, the showdown between Haath and the wizards doesn’t end with a massive fight. No, once Rhiow/The Queen offer Haath a chance to redeem themselves, Haath hesitates. It’s just a moment, but in that moment, the Lone One must have figured out that they had already lost Haath. Just a second later, the Lone One renounces Haath, and “all of Haath’s deaths simply caught up with him at once.” Like that, he is just dust, nothing more.
But it clears the way for the much, much bigger fight while demonstrating that the Lone One sees all other beings as just pawns in Its greater schemes. That is why Ith’s eventual rejection stings the Lone One so much. It’s so full of Itself, you know? The Lone One just murdered Its last servant right in front of Ith’s eyes for merely THINKING ABOUT CHANGING SIDES, and then thinks that Ith would totally be cool joining them! The Lone One is so concerned with power, though, that this is the only way they know how to express themselves, you know? Sure, they have a “soft” voice here when trying to smooth talk Ith, but actions truly speak louder than words. Ith saw how the Lone One acted, but he also saw how Arhu acted, and the story finally comes full circle. Because of Arhu’s kind treatment of Ith, Ith believed that there was hope. He believed that you could experience pain—which life is full of—and still live beyond it. Arhu was a model of behavior and belief that Ith could trust in, and I LOVE THAT THIS HAPPENS. Arhu demonstrates that nothing is more valuable than living your life for yourself and for others rather than devoting your life wholly to someone else.
It’s so cool, then, that as soon as Ith makes the Choice for his People, the world literally changes around him. There’s a power in a metaphor, of course, but I found it fulfilling for the malleable nature of the Downside to fall into a new configuration as the past is changed. The fight happens all over again, with the four Powers attacking the Old Serpent, but there’s one last surprise in store, something no one was ready for:
Suddenly there was a Fifth among them; and sa’Rrahh laughed for joy and plunged anew into the battle beside that Fifth one; and the others cried out in amazement. For it was another Serpent, a bright one, as great as the Old Serpent, and its scales glittering like diamond in the light of their own fires.
Just like the serpents in Mercury’s staff. HOLY SHIT, THAT WAS FORESHADOWING, I CAN’T DO THIS, Y’ALL. How? HOW??? Oh my god, this is how it ends: Ith turns on its master, and his final act is to hold the Lone One down while Urruah uses a HYPERSTRING CONSTRUCT to decapitate the Old Serpent. (That is such a great sentence to type out. Seriously.) The Old Serpent’s blood is used to heal the Tree, and then…
And then what? The Powers leave, the Downside has changed, Saash has helped the River of light turn into… well, another tree, so to speak. It’s not about returning the place to its formal glory but writing a new tale in its place. I just don’t know what the next (and final) part of that story is.
WHEW, THIS WAS A RIDE, Y’ALL.
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