If you could be immortal, would you? I wouldn’t.
CLOCKWORK PRINCESS SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED IN THIS POST!
(I always start posts and save them to finish later thinking I’m gonna finish them in the next couple days, but no. I started this post on April 1, so when I say a few days ago, I don’t mean end of April . . .)
A few days ago, I finished reading Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare, and oh my gosh, the epilogue about broke my heart into a million and four pieces. Here is an excerpt:
It still seemed incredible to her sometimes that they had managed to grow old together, herself and Will Herondale, whom Gabriel Lightwood had once said would not live to be older than nineteen. They had been good friends with the Lightwoods too, through all those years. Of course Will could hardly not be friends with the man who was married to his sister. Both Cecily and Gabriel had seen Will on the day he died, as had Sophie, though Gideon had himself passed away several years before.
Tessa remembered that day clearly, the day the Silent Brothers had said there was nothing more they could do to keep Will alive. He had been unable to leave their bed by then. Tessa had squared her shoulders and gone to give the news to their family and friends, trying to be as calm for them as she could, though her heart had felt as if were being ripped out of her body.
It had been June, the bright hot summer of 1937, and with the curtains thrown back the bedroom had been full of sunlight, sunlight and her and Will’s children, their grandchildren, their nieces and nephews—Cecy’s blue-eyed boys, tall and handsome, and Gideon and Sophie’s two girls—and those who were as close as family: Charlotte, white-haired and upright, and the Fairchild sons and daughters with their curling red hair like Henry’s had once been.
All day Tessa had set on the bed with Will beside her, leaning on her shoulder. The sight might have been strange to others, a young woman lovingly cradling a man who looked old enough to be her grandfather, her hands looped through his, but to their family it was only familiar—it was only Tessa and Will. And because it was Tessa and Will, the others came and went all day, as Shadowhunters did at a deathbed, telling stories of Will’s life and all the things he and Tessa had done through their long years together.
The children had spoken fondly of the way he had always loved their mother, fiercely and devotedly, the way he had never had eyes for anyone else, and how their parents had set the model for the sort of love they hoped to find in their own lives. They spoke of his regard for books, and how he had taught them all to love them too, to respect the printed page and cherish the stories that those pages held. They spoke of the way he still cursed in Welsh when he dropped something, though he rarely used the language otherwise, and of the face that though his prose was excellent—he had written several histories of the Shadowhunters when he’d retired that had been very well respected—his poetry had always been awful, though that had never stopped him from reciting it.
Their oldest child, James, had spoken laughingly about Will’s unrelenting fear of ducks and his continual battle to keep them out of the pond at the family home in Yorkshire.
Their grandchildren had reminded him of the song about demon pox he had taught them—when they were much too young, Tessa had always thought—and that they had all memorized. They sang it all together and out of tune, scandalizing Sophie.
With tears running down her face, Cecily had reminded him of the moment at her wedding to Gabriel when he had delivered a beautiful speech praising the groom, at the end of which he had announced, “Dear God, I thought she was marrying Gideon. I take it all back,” thus vexing not only Cecily and Gabriel but Sophie as well—and Will, though too tired to laugh, had smiled at his sister and squeezed her hand.
They had all laughed about his habit of taking Tessa on romantic “holidays” to places from Gothic novels, including the hideous moor where someone had died, a drafty castle with a ghost in it, and of course the square in Paris in which he had decided Sydney Carton had been guillotined, where Will had horrified passerby by shouting “I can see the blood on the cobblestones!” in French.
At the end of the day, as the sky had darkened, the family had come around Will’s bed and kissed him each in turn and left one by one, until Will and Tessa were alone together. Tessa had lain down beside him and slid her arm beneath his head, and put her head on his chest, listening to the ever-weakening beat of his heart. And in the shadows they’d whispered, reminding each other of the stories only they knew. Of the girl who had hit over the head with a water jug the boy who had come to rescue her, and how he had fallen in love with her in that instant. Of a ballroom and a balcony and the moon sailing like a ship untethered through the sky. Of the flutter of the wings of a clockwork angel. Of holy water and blood.
Near midnight the door had opened and Jem had come in. Tessa supposed she should have thought of him as Brother Zachariah by then, but neither Will nor Tessa had ever called him that. He had come in like a shadow in his white robes, and Tessa had taken a deep breath when she had seen him, for she had known that his was what Will had been waiting for, and that the hour was now.
He did not come to Will at once, but crossed the room to a rosewood box that sat upon the top of the dresser. They had always kept Jem’s violin for him, as Will had promised. It was kept clean and in order, and the hinges of the box did not creak as Jem opened it and lifted the instrument out. They watched as he rosined the bow with his familiar slim fingers, his pale wrists disappearing down into the paler material of the Brother’s parchment robes.
He lifted the violin to his shoulder then, and raised the bow. And he played.
Zhi yin. Jem had told her once that it meant understanding music, and also a bond that went deeper than friendship. Jem played, and he played the years of Will’s life as he had seen them. He played two little boys in a training room, one showing the other how to throw knives, and he played the ritual of parabatai: the fire and the vows and the burning runes. He played two young men running through the streets of London in the dark, stopping to lean up against a wall and laugh together. He played the day in the library when he and Will had jested with Tessa about ducks, and he played the train to Yorkshire on which Jem had said that parabatai were meant to love each other as they loved their own souls. He played that love, and he played their love for Tessa, and her for them, and he played Will saying, In your eyes I have always found grace. He played the too few times he had seen them since he had joined the Brotherhood—the brief meetings at the Institute; the time when Will had been bitten by a Shax demon and nearly died, and Jem had come from the Silent City and sat with him all night, risking discovery and punishment. And he played the birth of their first son, and the protection ceremony that had been carried out on the child in the Silent City. Will would have no other Silent Brother but Jem perform it. And Jem played the way he had covered his scarred face with his hands and turned away when he’d found out the child’s name was James.
He played of love and loss and years of silence, words unsaid and vows unspoken, and all the spaces between his heart and theirs; and when he was done, and he set his violin back in its box, Will’s eyes were closed, but Tessa’s were full of tears. Jem set down his bow, and came toward the bed, drawing back his hood, so she could see his closed eyes and his scarred face. And he had sat down beside them on the bed, and taken Will’s hand, the one that Tessa was not holding, and both Will and Tessa had heard Jem’s voice in their minds.
I take your hand, brother, so that you may go in peace.
Will had opened the blue eyes that had never lost their color over all the passing years, and looked at Jem and then Tessa, and smiled, and died, with Tessa’s head on his shoulder and his hand in Jem’s.
It never stopped hurting, remembering when Will had died. After he was gone, Tessa had fled. Her children were grown, had children of their own; she told herself they did not need her and hid in the back of her mind the thought that haunted her: She could not bear to remain and watch them grow older than she was. It had been one thing to survive the death of her husband. To survive the death of her children—she could not sit by and watch it. It would happen, must happen, but she would not be there.
. . .
In Paris she found Magnus, who was living in a garret apartment and painting, an occupation for which he had no aptitude whatsoever. He let her sleep on a mattress by the window, and in the night, when she woke up screaming for Will, he came and put arms around her, smelling of turpentine.
“The first one is always the hardest,” he said.
“The first one you love who dies,” he said. “It gets easier, after.”
. . .
Will. For a moment her heart hesitated. She remembered when Will had died, her agony, the long nights alone, reaching across the bed every morning when she woke up, for years expecting to find him there, and only slowly growing accustomed to the fact that that side of the bed would always be empty. The moments when she had found something funny and turned to share the joke with him, only to be shocked anew that he was not there. The worse moments, when, sitting alone at breakfast, she had realized that she had forgotten the precise blue of his eyes or the depth of his laugh; that, like the sound of Jem’s violin music, they had faded into the distance where memories are silent.
Jem was mortal now. He would grow old like Will, and like Will he would die, and she did not know if she could bear it again.
Most people are lucky to have even on great love in their life. You have found two.
Suddenly her feet were moving, almost without her volition. She was darting into the crowed, pushing past strangers, gasping out apologies as she nearly tripped over the feet of passerby or knocked into them with her elbows. She didn’t care. She was running flat out across the bridge, skidding to a halt at the very end of it, where a series of narrow stone steps led down to the water of the Thames.
She took them two at a time, almost slipping on the damp stone. At the bottom of the steps was a small cement dock, ringed around with a metal railing. The river was high and splashed up between the gaps in the metal, filling the small space with the smell of river water.
Jem stood at the railing, looking out at the water. His hands were jammed tightly into his pockets, his shoulders hunched as if against a strong wind. He was staring ahead almost blindly, and with such a fixed intent that he didn’t seem to hear her as she came up behind him. She caught at his sleeve, swinging him around to face her.
“What,” she said breathlessly. “What were you trying to ask me, Jem?”
His eyes widened. His cheeks were flushed, whether from running or the cold air, she wasn’t sure. He looked at her as if she were some bizarre plant that had sprung up on the spot, astonishing him. “Tessa—you followed me?”
“Of course I followed you. You ran off in the middle of a sentence!”
“It wasn’t a very good sentence.” He looked down at the ground, and then up at her again, a smile, as familiar as her own memories, tugging at the corner of his mouth. It came back to her then, a memory lost but not forgotten: Jem’s smile had always been like sunlight. “I was never the one who was good with words,” he said. “If I had my violin, I would be able to play you what I wanted to say.”
. . .
“To be a Silent Brother,” he said, “it is to see everything and nothing all at once. I could see the great map of life, spread out before me. I could see the currents of the world. And human life began to seem a sort of passion play, acted at a distance. When they took the runes from me, when the mantle of the Brotherhood was removed, it was as if I had awoken from a long dream, or as if a shield of glass around me had shattered. I felt everything, all at once, rushing in upon me. All the humanity the Brotherhood’s spells has taken from me. That I had so much humanity to return to me . . . That is because of you. If I had not had you, Tessa, if I had not had these yearly meetings as my anchor and my guide, I do not know if I could have come back.”
There was light in his dark eyes now, and her heart soared in her chest. She had only ever loved two men in her life, and she had never thought to see either of their faces again. “But you have,” she whispered. “And it is a miracle. And you remember what I once told you about miracles.”
He smiled again at that. “’One does not question miracles, or complain that they are not constructed perfectly to one’s liking.’ I suppose that is true. I wish I could have come back to you earlier. I wish I were the same boy I was when you loved me once. I fear that the years have changed me into someone else.”
Tessa searched his face with her eyes. In the distance she could hear the sound of traffic passing, but here, by the river’s edge, she could almost imagine that she was a girl again, and the air full of fog and smoke, the rattling sound of the railway in the distance . . . “They have changed me, too,” she said. “I have been a mother and a grandmother, and I have seen those I love die, and seen others be born. You speak of the currents of the world. I have seen them too. If I were still the same girl I was when you knew me first, I would not have been able to speak my heart as freely to you as I just have. I would not be able to ask you what I am about to ask you now.”
He brought his hand up and cupped her cheek. She could see the hope in his expression, slowly dawning. “And what is that?”
“Come with me,” she said. “Stay with me. Be with me. See everything with me. I have traveled the world and seen so much, but there is so much more, and no one I would rather see it with than you. I would go everywhere and anywhere with you, Jem Carstairs.”
His thumb slid along the arch of her cheekbone. She shivered. It had been so long since someone had looked at her like that, as if she were the world’s greatest marvel, and she knew was looking at him like that too. “It seems unreal,” he said huskily. “I have loved you for so long. How can this be true?”
“It is one of the great truth of my life,” Tessa said. “Will you come with me? For I cannot wait to share the world with, Jem. There is so much to see.”
She was not sure who reached for who first, only that a moment later she was in his arms and he was whispering, “Yes, of course, yes,” against her hair. He sought her mouth tentatively—she could feel his gentle tension, the weight of so many years between their last kiss and this. She reached up, curling her hand around the back of his neck, drawing him down, whispering “Bie zhao ji.” Don’t worry, don’t worry. She kissed his cheek, the edge of his mouth, and finally his mouth, the pressure of his lips on hers intense and glorious, and Oh, the beat of his heart, the taste of his mouth, the rhythm of his breath. Her senses blurred with memory: how then he had once been, the feeling of his shoulder blades as sharp as knives beneath the fine linen shirts he had once worn. Now she could feel strong, solid muscle when she held him, the thrum of life through his body where it pressed against hers, the soft cotton of his jumper gripped between her fingers.
Tessa was aware that above their small embankment people were sill walking along Blackfriars Bridge, that the traffic was still passing, and that passerby were probably staring, but she didn’t care; after enough years you learned what was important and what wasn’t And this was important: Jem, the speed and stutter of his heart, the grace of his gentle hands sliding to cup her face, his lips soft against hers as he traced the shape of her mouth with his. The warm solid definitive realness of him. For the first time in many long years she felt her heart open, and knew love as more than a memory.
As I was reading this, the feelings that overwhelmed me where more than just the fact that one of my favorites series has ended. It was Cassandra Clare writing so beautifully and vividly that it was like physically being there at Will’s deathbed and feeling the same heartbreaking emotions that Tessa was experiencing . . .
Back to what I was initially going for: today, books and movies and TV shows are rampant with vampires, wizards, and werewolves and this idea that living forever is desirable. And undeniably, it’s kind of a cool idea. Just imagine being alive the past 500 years: all the development and history and knowledge you would develop. Granted, there’s been much pain and loss and bloodshed that you would probably experience, but there’s a price to pay for everything, right?
I don’t want to stray too far, but I’m thinking of The Vampire Diaries and the original family. Rebecca is tired of living forever. Elijah doesn’t seem to have any qualms about it. He seems to look more to the future. And Klaus seems to be more about the here and now . . . But Tessa. It’s just like: there you are, you have had the good fortune to find the love of your life knowing that you get to spend every day together, but he is going to die. Not just him, but that you’re going to outlive your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and so on and so forth.
For those of you who do or don’t know the series, warlocks are immortal but infertile, and Tessa is kind of a warlock but not really. I’m not going in to detail, but an immortal, she’s had the opportunity to not face living life alone. Not only did she have Will as one of her great loves, but now she has Jem for the rest of his life. So, you know, Tessa has been “blessed” to find great loves more than once, but is it really worth it? Is the exhilarating rush of being able to find new love worth the pain of losing an old one? Would it be better to be immortal and infertile or immortal and be able to have children knowing that one day they’re going to pass and you’re not? At at least you don’t have to spend all your days alone.
Again, immortality seems to have its perks. Depending on your world view, imagine the change that you could make, how many lives you could touch? Not saying that you have to become Mother Teresa, but you could work towards a better tomorrow. Or you could leave a path of death and destruction. Your choice . . . Dying is not something I like to think about, but I think living forever would be a much worse fate, regardless of being a vampire, warlock, or whatever.