This post is part of a series of posts discussing characters and events in WARRIOR WITCH. They will all contain serious spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book, I’d suggest holding off on reading them. I’m even sticking a giant image below so that you don’t accidentally see anything you don’t want to.
Of all the secondary characters in THE MALEDICTION TRILOGY, Marc has been the most popular with readers. I love Marc, because despite being damaged both inside and out, he has a beautiful spirit. He is kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and an extremely loyal friend. And yet for many years, I’ve known he wouldn’t survive to the end of the series. I’m going to talk a bit about my rationale behind that decision. This post is a bit long, so forgive me for that!
Marc’s defining characteristic is his undying love for his wife, Pénélope, whose hemophilia caused her to bleed to death during a miscarriage prior to the events of STOLEN SONBIRD. She was the love of his life. They’d been close since they were children, and discovering she was afflicted with hemophilia (the Duke had gone to great lengths to hide her illness for many reasons), his love for her remained. Especially given she was one of the few who saw beyond his own iron affliction. When his parents refused to allow him to bond her, he stole a vial of Élixir and sneaked Pénélope into a portion of the labyrinth where the moon was visible, where they bonded each other in secret. He did this knowing that her life was unlikely to be long, and that her death was likely to kill him. As you all know, Pénélope did succumb to her illness, and while her death didn’t kill her instantly like Matilde’s death killed King Thibault, I think I made it very clear that Marc would’ve killed himself if Tristan hadn’t intervened.
Tristan’s first course of action was to force Marc to make a binding promise to him to live. But that promise ran counter to Marc’s deep desire to die, the conflict between the two forces driving him insane. So Tristan used the power of Marc’s true name to layer a series of commands that would diminish the pain of Pénélope’s loss (without making him forget her), as well as to an instill a desire to live into his cousin’s mind. But when Tristan gave up the power over all those true names in order to win the half-bloods trust (in the mines in HIDDEN HUNTRESS), all the orders he used to help Marc ceased to exist, leaving behind only the promise. Once again, Marc’s mind fell into a state of enormous conflict, driving him toward madness.
In the mines, Tristan and Marc have a heated conversation, but Tristan walks away from his cousin after the following comment: “If you find reason inside yourself to live, your will and your word might cease to be at odds and your mind once again be whole. Or you can pine away for death and let the madness grow until my father orders you put down. The choice is yours.” Neither the reader nor Tristan see how Marc grabbles with this challenge, only the results when Marc and the twins show up to rescue Tristan from Lessa. Marc explains: “You were right. It would have been one thing if my heart had stopped beating when hers did, if the decision had been taken out of my hands. But to choose it?” He inhaled sharply. “She did not wish it. And now, I find I do not wish it either. There is much I would like to see done before I willingly walk toward the end. This,” he gestured out at the city lying in front of us. “Saving this is one.”
As Tristan had hoped, Marc rediscovering his purpose and a reason to live (seeing the revolution through, helping Tristan gain the throne, etc.) put his mind, to a certain extent, at ease with the promise and allowed him to continue on.
Fast-forward to the moment in WARRIOR WITCH when Marc has killed Lessa and is now mortally injured at the bottom of the ravine. The fight against their enemies is over. The trolls are freed, and with Cécile’s ability to send the trolls back to Arcadia, there is no fear of war between full-bloods, half-bloods, and humans. Tristan has the throne, with Cécile at his side. The purpose that Marc has used to will himself onward, and to live, has been seen through to fruition, and therefore ceases to exist. He must choose between living for the sake of living, or letting go.
For me, that he would decide to let go was always the choice that he would make. To do otherwise would be breaking with the character that I’d created. His love for Pénélope was what defined him, and while he was able to move beyond that for a time in order to see his friends through, to have him continue to do so once the day had been won would’ve be counter to all the character development I’d given him. He believes there could be an afterlife for trolls, and any chance of being reunited with Pénélope is one that he will take.
And as the author with the ending firmly fixed in my mind, I knew one thing more than he did. Should he choose to have Cécile heal him, it wouldn’t just be a mortal life that I’d be presenting him with. Because much as Tristan has no choice about going to Arcadia, Marc would be in the same position. So he wouldn’t be presented with living a mortal life, at the end of which he could hope for an afterlife with Pénélope, he’d be presented with an immortal life, with no chance of reuniting with her unless he once again sought his own death. This was the right path for him in my mind, so it was the one I went with.
This is somewhat of an aside, but this moment was also important for Tristan. Tristan is a control freak – it’s probably one of his bigger character flaws. When Pénélope died, he took Marc’s choice away from him, forcing his cousin to live on whether he wanted to or not. In HIDDEN HUNTRESS, he gives up the control over Marc’s name, but he does not relinquish the hold of the promise he demanded from his cousin, which means he is still trying to force Marc to live. In the ravine, Tristan finally sees that Marc needs the opportunity to make this decision himself, and he finally relinquishes that control, leaving Marc’s fate wholly in his own hands.
But what about SABINE? THAT is going to be what I talk about in Monday’s post, along with some discussion about Sabine’s life after the trolls leave for Arcadia.
Comments are open for questions!