The following article contains MAJOR SPOILERS from Iron Gold! If you haven’t read the book yet, head on over to my Spoiler Free review! Then read Iron Gold.
Ok, that’s the only warning you’re going to get on the spoiler front.
I know I’m not alone in having major questions about the circumstances of Cassius’ death. So I want to break down the generalities of what happened and some of the theories I’m brewing about the Eagle’s alleged departure. (I’ll do my best with the details, but I’ve only read Iron Gold once, so if I got anything wrong, don’t hesitate to comment and correct me!)
Jumping into the middle of the story here, Cassius and Lysander were on the Rim with the Raa family, and at this point in the story, they’ve seen through Cassius’ disguise. What’s more, Cassius and Lysander had evidence hidden away in their safe that Dido needs in order to start a war against Darrow and the Republic. When trying to conceal any evidence of their identities, Cassius and Lysander unknowingly locked away the holo showing Darrow and Victra destroying the docks, which Seraphina concealed in one of their razors. Understanding that this evidence would spark the war Dido desperately wants, Cassius refused to give it up and accepted a duel, which turned out to be multiple duels. Each opponent stepped up and Cassius tore them down like any true student of Aja would.
How He Died
After fighting off numerous opponents, Cassius was badly injured and Lysander finally stepped in to reveal his true identity and consented to give up the safe in exchange for Cassius’ life. Dido reluctantly agreed and Cassius was taken off to the surgeon.
As reported to Lysander later on by Aurae, Cassius died of exsanguination. So, presumably he bled out on the table or simply lost too much blood in the fight to survive.
Why we’re even questioning whether he’s dead or alive
There are a few reasons this whole situation is in question…
It happened off-screen, so to speak. If Cassius au Bellona were going to die, why wouldn’t it happen at the end of that epic series of duels when we were watching? Why have him taken to the infirmary only to have him quietly pass unseen by Lysander (and us)? If he is dead, he went out after a major fight. But why couldn’t he have gone out fighting or immediately after winning that last duel?
We never saw a body. Supposedly Cassius’ body was carried off to be desecrated in the Waste, and considering all the carnage he caused before his supposed death, that wouldn’t be so hard to believe. But the Raa family might have reason to lie to Lysander about the fate of his companion, whether it be because they want to manipulate Lysander for their own purposes, or because they don’t want him to know what really happened to Cassius. Possibly both. (We’ll get to theories on that soon).
Pierce Brown would NEVER fake us out with a character death, right?! Oh… wait. He totally would. But from a story perspective, Cassius death — real or not — took him out of the picture, which allowed Lysander the freedom to make his own decisions. For the story and character, that seems important. Cassius has been Lysander’s mentor for the past decade. It’s time Lysander flies solo, otherwise he might always be swayed by Cassius’ influence. In order for Lysander to truly come into his own, both within this story and as a character, he needs to be on his own. He is now. What will he do? We’re going to find out.
Cassius can’t have really gone out this way… right? It isn’t that he died after multiple victorious duels. That in itself is pretty fitting for Cassius. It’s that the whole point of those duels was to prevent a war. Then Lysander went and stepped in, nulling and voiding everything Cassius was bleeding for with a few words. For Cassius to die after that would mean he failed, and I’m not sure I’m prepared to accept that ending for him. I have more to say on that in a bit…
So, what happened to Cassius then?
Here are the main theories I’m working on…
Theory #1) Cassius was sent into the custody of the Olympic Order, as Dido intended. So why would she lie? Dido had just learned that she was in the presence of Octavia’s grandson. Maybe she recalculated the situation and saw that Lysander’s true value would emerge without Cassius mucking things with his efforts to prevent a war against the republic. And if Lysander knew he was alive, he might be distracted or continue to try to bargain for his release. So she lied to Lysander and sent Cassius away. She got her safe and an opportunity to buddy up with someone who could be a major foot in the door to allying with rebelling Golds in the Core.
Theory #2) Cassius escaped and they don’t want Lysander to know. I love this theory, but I’m not counting on it. Still, it’s possible he was healed just enough to make a run for it and maybe he’s hiding somewhere, looking for a way to get Lysander off the Rim, or to just escape on his own. And again, if that’s the case, Dido might want to lie and say Cassius died to keep Lysander’s attention on the safe and her planned war. If Lysander knew Cassius was on the run, he might want to leave to find him.
Theory #3) He really is dead. I’m prepared to believe he might actually be dead, despite my gut instinct on this whole thing. To answer the “it happened off-screen” argument, I want to play devil’s advocate here and look at this from a story perspective. We’re in Lysander’s POV. If he’d witnessed Cassius’ actual death or saw his body, it might’ve been difficult to focus him on anything but the grief he might have experienced. Grief that was perhaps put on hold or numbed somewhat by Lysander’s absence from the event. He seemed a bit thrown off that Cassius had died and he didn’t “feel it” happen. It just sort of happened between chapters. Which meant Lysander could move forward in the story without really having to deal with whatever feelings he might have over it.
I’m having a hard time swallowing this line of thinking myself, because Lysander has always seemed like a very practical sort of person who wouldn’t let grief overshadow what needed to be done. But it’s the only case I have for why he wouldn’t have actually seen Cassius die, and thus we didn’t see it.
Also, let’s face it, the Raa family had reasons to hate Cassius, so Dido may very well have been happy to let him bleed out. If that’s the case, there may be more to the story than we were meant to see, which might also explain why we weren’t privy to Cassius’ final moments in Iron Gold or whatever became of his body.
What if Cassius really is dead?
Like I said, he might be. Cassius wanted to die with honor, and if that’s the case, he made a valiant effort to do that, fighting for a cause he believed in. In his final words, he questioned Lysander for destroying everything he’d been trying to achieve. That in itself would mean that Cassius died for nothing. And it’s awful. I don’t want to believe it. But I’m prepared to accept it if it turns out he really is dead.
As I said, I still think there’s more to the story of his death. But for argument’s sake, let’s say that Cassius did die. Then this is the end of a very sad story for a privileged man who had a pretty rough life, all things considered. He grew up in a wealthy, high-ranking family only to have his brother killed at the Institute by someone he saw as a brother-figure. That left a mark. And I’ve always operated under the assumption that he was in love with Mustang, but even if it was just strong feelings, she basically used him and lost him when he’d served his purpose. Then a good chunk of his family was slaughtered by the Jackal, and he was made to believe Darrow did it. Used again. He finally came around to allying with Darrow in the end, fought by his side to take down Octavia (and Aja), and found an honorable cause in protecting young Lysander’s life, taking him under his wing and raising him to adulthood like a brother.
Despite everything he went through, he never stopped trying. Maybe Cassius was always destined to die a frustrating and relatively meaningless death. But I wanted more for him.
Can it be argued that he found his redemption? If effort counts for something — and I’d say it counts for a lot here — then yes, he did. He went out after fighting for something he believed was the right, honorable thing to do. He died after fighting for the people, which is true to his character and proved he never lost his heart. He wasn’t always a good person. He made mistakes driven by his desire to be honorable, which wasn’t always “good.” I still think he deserved some peace, love and maybe even a family someday. But not everyone in this brutal world is destined for that.
Putting aside the argument that he might actually be dead, I’m going to bring this back around to my original thinking. In the end, we’re taking Cassius’ fate on the word of people whose agenda drastically conflicted with Cassius’. They had reason to lie, which means that possibility remains until we get further confirmation that Cassius really is gone.
So, after all this chatter, I remain in hopeful, blissful denial until proven otherwise. Whether he’s dead or alive, I’m mostly certain we’ll get more closure to Cassius’ fate later on in some form or another.
What do you think? Is he dead or alive? What are your theories? Drop a comment below or Tweet me your thoughts! (Use the hashtag #IronGoldSpoilers, please!)