For whatever reason, Night Watch is a particularly dark entry in the series, and this is reflected in its extremely high ratio of Tear Jerker moments.
Night Watch deals with Time Travel, to a point in Ankh-Morpork's past that ain't exactly glorious. The tear-jerking starts when Vimes realizes he can't fix it.
Towards the end, when we realize what wearing the lilac flowers means.
See all the little angels rise up high...
Think about it. All the little angels, rising up... from where?
You can buy T-shirts in Real Life with "How do they rise up?" written on them, just as you can for any number of revolutionary or anti-war slogans. Pratchett managed to make the deaths of fictional characters so moving that Real Life feels the need to commemorate them.
Vimes finally tracks down Carcer (if you didn't see that coming, then you don't know Vimes) and puts down his sword, bashes the knife out of his hand and arrests him. Because people like him need to know the system works. That it's not all just madness. That their kind is the outliers, not the norm, not the free. One of the few times that Pratchett doesn't break the mood for the sake of fun.
Shortly thereafter when Vimes tells Vetinari what he thinks of the idea of a monument. NO-ONE has EVER spoken like that to Vetinari before and gotten away with it, but just this once Vetinari backs.
Vimes:Really? And perhaps some sort of inspiring slogan? Vetinari:Yes, indeed. Something like, perhaps, 'They Did the Job they Had to Do'? Vimes:No. How dare you? How dare you! At this time! In this place! They did the job they didn't have to do, and they died doing it, and you can't give them anything.
Be aware that until this point Vetinari has always been able to "bribe" Sam at the end of each book for being able to do his job, making Vimes feel a bit as a dog being thrown a bone. But not this time. Not even Vetinari can bribe history.
Sam's existence in that book in general is very sad. Matching the idealistic young man with the hardened cynic of Guards! Guards! is just... depressing, especially imagining exactly what he went through the become like that.
To say nothing of what we learned about Nobby. Yes, we'd already known Sconner yelled at him, but brrrr...
The realization that Sam has been caring for Nobby his whole life. Nobby's been under his wing since the beginning. Is it any wonder that when the Night Watch was just three it was Colon and Nobby, who refused to leave Sam Vimes and move on? It speaks volumes about THEIR character as well as his.
Reg's death was sad even though we knew it was coming from the beginning of the book and we knew he was going to be right back. That takes some skill.
There's probably something wrong with starting to feel all teary-eyed over the sentence "Carcer's going to bloody swing for this."
Vimes is squaring off with Carcer in the cemetery:
The gods knew the man deserved it... but young Sam was watching him, across thirty years. When we break down, it all breaks down. That's just how it works. You can bend it, and if you make it hot enough you can bend it in a circle, but you can't break it. When you break it, it all breaks down until there's nothing unbroken. It starts here and now. He lowered the sword.
It gets better when you realize that you don't know which Sam he's talking about. Himself in the past, or his newborn son, named for him.
"Across thirty years" implies the former, I think.
Makes perfect sense for him to be considering how his son will remember him, too.
"Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes removed his knife, and... gave what help he could."
Oh gods yes, that entire sequence in the torture chambers. The descriptions are so vague and murky you can only begin to imagine the horrors down there. There's two scenes in particular that always get me — first, when Vimes finds his younger self in tears, because Sam found a woman who had had something horrible happen to her that we never find out, thankfully. Then, later on, when "Keel" stops Sam from killing one of the torturers and gives him a speech that pretty much defines who Vimes is and why he fights the monsters inside... well, it has to be read, but it always makes my vision go blurry...
Not to mention, the sight of that woman is something that has apparently stayed with Vimes. He considers going into that room, but quickly decides that once in his life was once too many to see that.
"He wanted to go home. He wanted it so much that he trembled at the thought. But if the price of that was selling good men to the night, if the price was filling those graves, if the price was not fighting with every trick he knew....Then it was too high. "
I just read that and I actually teared up in remembrance. That one paragraph tells you pretty much everything you need to know about a) what kind of stuff Sam Vimes is made of and b) how brilliant an author Pterry truly is.
At the end when Vimes lists off the names of the dead watchmen.
The part where Vimes wonders if any of the wonderful things he took somewhat for granted at the beginning of the book, in his longing for the "good old days" are actually true anywhere.
Well, why ... But now…what about Sybil? Are my memories real? What I know is she's a girl living with her dad. Is there somewhere where she's my wife, having my child?