This is just something depressing that popped into my mind the last time I read Howl's Moving Castle. I love that book, but I always wonder what Calcifer had to feel when his thousand years pressed on. He's a sentimental old fire demon, after all.
I really wish Sophie hadn't made it a thousand years. In the heat of the moment, she didn't think it through-again. She didn't factor in how I'd feel when she, Howl and all the rest moved on and I was still stuck here, the only thing familiar being the old hearth. Howl and Sophie have been gone for years (though granted, they lived long full lives. Sophie was nearly a hundred when she passed away). Michael and Morgan are too, along with Abdullah, Martha, Lettie, Fanny and all the rest of our motley crew. Few things are as they once were now, especially without them. The only left that is even remotely familiar is the old hearth I used to hate, but now treasure.
The moving castle is still around, owned and inhabited by Morgan's great, great, great grandson Edmund and his family. I've become a type of family heirloom; the one that gets along best with me gets the castle and all that goes with it. So far for this generation it's Edmund's daughter Isobel. She's about Sophie's age when I first met her (her real age, not what she was under the curse) and got her gingery hair and straight, slightly long nose. Her eyes are dark brown, and she's turning out to be as powerful a witch as Howl was a wizard. She reminds me very much of Sophie, especially the way she sits in front of my hearth every night in a squashy armchair to tell me about her day. Sophie had that habit as she grew older and had less time to sit.
After the jinn incident, life went on as it usually does for the Royal Wizard Howl and his wife (hectic and adventurous). They had more children after Morgan (Laurel, their only daughter and two twin boys Caleb and Kyle) and the adventures in raising them almost outshined the ones they got by just being themselves. (One incident, when Morgan was about sixteen, featured the kids actually rescuing their parents from an evil magician, but that's a story for another time.)
Each of their kids was a unique sorcerer or sorceress, and they passed on their traits to later generations. Laurel married a powerful mage, Sam, from a small village in northern Ingary and they lived out their lives in Kingsbury. She served as a Royal Wizard after Ben Sullivan retired alongside Howl and continued after he retired too. She's in the history books for saving Kingsbury during the War of Fortunes from annihilation under Queen Valeria when she was in her late twenties. She had five children with Sam and retired at age fifty-seven and became a tutor. Three of her pupils went on to be Royal Wizards themselves. Her own children all went on to be successful, all of them with a knack for magic.
Morgan led a quieter life than his sister. He ended up getting the castle when Howl and Sophie died (that was sad, it was within a month of each other. Howl couldn't live without Sophie, I guess) and lived out his old age in it. He married a pretty girl from Market Chipping named Eliza and had two sons with her. He opened a magical items shop in Kingsbury with outlets in Porthaven and Market Chipping. He custom made just about any item ordered-magic wands to trick cards-and even supplied his sister's students with plenty of their tools. Her too, for that matter. He was famous in a quiet way, people came from all over to have him build them something-Valeria even had him customize all the weapons in the War of Fortunes.
The twins ended tragically, and I'll never forget the look on Sophie and Howl's faces when they got the news. The War of Fortunes had a central core around the Jenkins twins. Caleb remained a good, honest and true man until the day he died, but Kyle, sometime in his teens, strayed over to Black Magic. He contracted a demon (and not a cheerful, fun-loving cutie like me) and it spiraled out of control. He launched an attack on Ingary and Caleb fought him on the final day of battle. Both died that day as their sister saved a city and their brother constructed shields and ushered civilians out of battle zones. Sophie and Howl and I, on the frontlines, knew it would come to such an end, it was in the twins' fortunes, but the numb look of shock on Sophie's face and Howl's tears are not something I'll forget. Ever.
Time marched on after that. Sophie and Howl eventually moved on, but they never forgot their sons and welcomed their grandchildren happily. (Howl spoiled all of them rotten. If we all thought it was bad with Mari, it was worse with them.) Sophie finally passed away years and years later, at age ninety-one. Thankfully, she aged far more gracefully than the Witch's curse, beautiful to the end. Howl, one hundred squarely, died a month later. Michael had gone the year before, Abdullah two years after. They just kept going. Morgan at eighty-three. Laurel-only ever eighteen months behind her brother-at eighty-four. It just kept happening. There's almost nothing left of the old family except for Isobel and even she's not the same. Isobel will never be Sophie, no matter much alike they are.
I watch the current crop of Jenkins file in- the oldest is bringing his belle home for dinner, Isobel isn't here yet and Mom and Dad are busy with shop stuff and food. I want to leave, but it's raining. I shared a heart with Howl too long to consider suicide. I'm too much a coward. The little ones are playing in the back, careful not to touch Howl's old iron scraps that are now integral to the workings of the shop. Despite the homey picture, it's just not the same.
"What's the matter?" Isobel said, plunking down in her chair. Her mom and pop knew better than to bug her now. It's routine.
"It's wet," I grumbled, using the standard excuse. No one questioned it. After all, what's worse for fire than water?
Isobel watched me, a thoughtful look on her face. She stared so long I thought I would blush and hey, for a fire demon, that's a feat. Finally she shook her head.
"You're lying. The damp isn't bothering you right now."
Forgot to mention, she's a bloody lie detector. She always knows when someone isn't telling the truth and when someone is being sincere. She can also make a liar tell the truth, but she's not as good at that yet.
"It's nothing Izzy. Just thinking is all."
"How long a thousand years really is."
"It's a millennium. Of course it's long."
I sighed. She could be terrible naïve. "What would you do if you lived for a thousand years?"
She thought for a moment. "I think I'd go crazy. Living that long, saying goodbye to my family and friends…I wouldn't be able to take it."
If only fire could cry. As it is I'm turning a sickly green that usually means I'm not doing too well. Isobel noticed.
"Are you okay Calcifer? What's the matter?"
I closed my eyes, blocking out the concerned face of a pretty girl. "A thousand years is a long time Izzy. I didn't want that long."
Izzy sat back, comprehension dawning on her face. "Grandma Sophie, huh? The words?"
"Oh Cal. I'm sorry…does that mean you'll see me go too?"
"Yes. And your children and their children, for all time. Until my thousand years are up."
She sat back further, hiding her face. Edmund's wife heard and had her face turned away. Both were crying quietly. I really wish Sophie hadn't said a thousand years…
There, it's done. It made me cry writing it, but in the end I'm proud of it. It's different from my other stuff. Review please and thank you! -Hanyou