This scene was based on and uses pieces of the song “Memory” by Andrew Lloyd Weber. Perhaps in time when I clean this up as a stand-alone original work, I’ll write in my own poem, but in its fanfiction form, I figured pulling from two well-loved inspirations wouldn’t go too awry.Author’s Note
“You’re here,” Mirium breathed. She could just see the outline of Keelath’s form in the dark, standing in their old, dead garden with his back to hers.
She tried sheathing her sword–the mindless undead still lurked in the Ghostlands, so she had come prepared–but she kept missing the scabbard in her shock. “Tyrdan said you would be. He said you had come back–oh, forget this stupid thing!” She flung the sword down and hurried over to Keelath.
She stopped short a couple paces away from him, when he did not turn and as she remembered Tyrdan’s words. Keelath was a death knight, now. She could still see the insignias of the Ebon Blade on his tabard, despite the darkness. She was suddenly afraid of seeing his face–if it would be rotting or even missing altogether. Tyrdan hadn’t mentioned that detail, perhaps to spare her feelings–
Keelath’s head bowed, and he slowly pivoted. With a huff of relief, Mirium saw his flesh was well-preserved–if flesh it was and not some illusion. He didn’t look at her, instead at the single flower he held in his bare hands. It was a crocus, probably plucked freshly from one of the gardens in Silvermoon. Its red-orange hue was muted by the moonlight.
“Keelath?” Mirium asked, a lump in her throat.
He silently held the flower out to her, but didn’t look at her. “Tyrdan told you of my condition, yes?”
“He did.” She took the flower. His hands were cold, and Mirium couldn’t repress a shiver. When she looked up again, the death knight was watching her impassively.
“It wasn’t an easy meeting for us, either,” Keelath said, and his words held a warning. “As I told him, I do not remember anything. The Lich King stole much of what I once was and replaced it with his will.”
“But the Lich King is dead now,” Mirium pressed.
Keelath said nothing. His eyes had grown sad.
Mirium swallowed the lump away. In some ways this was harder than it had been to stand by his grave and watch as his coffin was being set gently into it. Yet Keelath was here now, she reminded herself, and alive again…or near enough. He needed her now.
“It is…” She stumbled as she searched for words. “…wonderful, if a bit shocking, that you’re here, Keel.” She looked up at him, willing herself to smile even as the gaze she met was still chilly.
Keelath eyed her, his expression unchanged. “I wasn’t sure if I should have come.”
Mirium tilted her head, swallowing. “Why not, Keelath?”
“Stop calling me by that. Please.”
Mirium frowned. “But it is your name–”
“No. I am not Keelath. Not the one you remember. I never will be again.”
Mirium held out a hand to him. “That doesn’t matter. Now that you’re here, and alive–or near enough–”
“You don’t understand.” It was the first time Mirium heard a hint of emotion in the death knight’s voice. She shivered. His anger was cold as the northern winds. “The man you remember? He was honorable. He had a family. A wife and a child whom he loved–or I assume so, because that is what Tyrdan tells me. He commanded the Light and swung his sword in the name of justice. That man has died. He is not me.”
Mirium glanced up at him, rebellious, but her heart gave a painful thud at the anguish now on Keelath’s face. She wondered again at his face, if it was only an illusion to hide a twisted and broken soul.
“I have slain hundreds,” Keelath said, snarling now. “Thousands. Broken their souls and drunk their blood and enjoyed it. That is my life now.” He looked back at her, and his voice turned hollow. “…it would have been better if you had gone on believing I was dead. So you could keep your memories at least, untainted by the monstrosity that your once-husband has become.”
“No.” She wasn’t sure if it was a denial of his words, or of his own reaction to them; she only felt its certainty. She squinted up at him again; she could feel his pain like it was hers, as she had once been able to. She was sure it was him, and in full, no matter what he said. The distress the death knight expressed was so singularly Keelath’s, the pain put to words in his own signature manner, that she knew so well after all the years they had spent together.
“No,” Mirium repeated and looked down, seeking now the words to dissuade him. She saw her gauntlets, and took them off, holding them out to him.
“These were yours,” she told him when he looked at them blankly. “When the Scourge came for us, I re-forged them and wore them into battle. Everyone had to fight then. I’m not the same woman you know either–or would know, if you remembered.”
Keelath was paying attention now. Mirium took a breath to smooth away her shivering.
“–you must have hated the Scourge very much,” he said in the silence left by her breath. His voice was still hollow.
She squeezed her eyes tight. He was so infuriating! And that, too, was like the Keelath she remembered. “It wasn’t hatred, it was just what we had to do to survive. I don’t know if you even remember this place–” She waved at the dead garden around them, swallowing hard. “It was our garden, that we shared. It was burned down once, by the trolls who killed you. I spent years replanting it, and then the Scourge came and destroyed it all over again.” She held up the flower, holding it out to him. “But I didn’t stop believing, Keelath. Not once. If the land here wasn’t so blighted, I would do it all over again. I swear it.”
Keelath looked at the flower, then looked at her. “I feel nothing for this place,” he said, his voice again without emotion. “I feel nothing for you. I do not say this to hurt you. It’s only the truth of what I am now.”
Mirium turned away, fighting off tears. She could tell her shoulders were hunching up when the pauldrons of her armor–his armor–scraped gently against the breastplate. She looked down at the crocus folded into her hands.
“I am sorry,” said Keelath solemnly behind her.
“Do you feel nothing of that apology, too?” Mirium snapped.
Keelath said nothing, and that was answer enough.
Mirium clenched her hands, then quickly opened them in worry she might destroy the flower–the last piece she might have of him and his kindness ever again. Gently she plucked a petal off of it. She shook her head, tried to think of some way around it. She shook her head again; it seemed there was none.
Slowly she began to hum the notes of an old song, as she plucked a petal from the crocus. It had been their song, her family’s, sung as part of the performances when she had first caught Keelath’s eye, then again during their wedding, then again at the birth of their son. She didn’t know what brought it forward in her mind, like one last elegy for the dead.
“Memory…” She pushed the clear notes of the old beloved tune through her mouth, through her sinuses. She closed her eyes, swaying softly to an unplayed melody, letting the memories drift across her vision.
“Turn your face to the moonlight. Let your memory lead you…open up, enter in…”
Another petal came off and crumbled between her fingers. She paid little attention to it; she could feel the echoes of the timbre through the bones of her face.
“When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too…I am waiting…for the day.”
She looked up at the sky. Keelath was silent behind her. She wasn’t even sure if he was still there. She tucked her chin, and her voice came out lower, more huskily, without her needing to do much more. The song took the feelings away from her, where they could be beautiful, like a tragedy on stage, unable to affect her any longer.
“Burnt out ends of smoky days…the stale, cold smell of morning. Candlelight dies–another night is over. Another day is dawning…”
The feelings came back to her anyway, like her words had ricocheted off Keelath. She closed her eyes tight, raising her chin. Maybe, somehow, he would understand anyway.
“Touch me,” she sang to him, even if he wasn’t still listening. “It’s so easy to leave me, all alone with my memory…of my days in the sun. If you touch me, you’ll understand what happiness is…I am waiting…for the day.”
She drew the last note out, even as her throat started to close, and she let the truncated music fall to the ground. The echoes faded from her sinuses, then from the closed-in shrubs of the old garden. She tucked her head and listened, but Keelath didn’t stir. She felt a touch of water on her cheek; it was too hot to be dew.
“…sunlight through the trees in summer. Endless masquerading…” His voice was stiffer, a little flatter: he had never been much of a singer, and now it sounded like his voice had become rusty from disuse.
Mirium picked up her head, heart pounding. He did remember! Her voice trembling, she sang out of the next part, and his voice carried hers…like he had once her.
“Like a flower, as the dawn is breaking–”
“The memory is fading,” Keelath sang quietly, and the sadness of the verse wasn’t all part of the song.
Mirium turned around though, throwing the crocus away and holding her hands out to him. “Touch me,” she told him. “It’s so easy to leave me! All alone with the memory…of our days in the sun.”
Keelath blinked. It wasn’t quite the right words, they both knew. Mirium didn’t care.
“If you touch me,” she sang now, softly, almost a whisper. “You’ll understand what happiness is…”
He took a step closer, despite himself. Mirium put her hands on top of his, closed over them tightly to still his trembling.
She looked up at him and brought in the last line softly. “Look, a new day–”
“–has begun,” Keelath answered, and they both held the last verse together, until Mirium had no more breath to sing with.
When the song ended, she took another step and collapsed into him. Tears slid down her cheeks.
“I remember that song,” Keelath said wonderingly. He was still standing stiffly, but Mirium felt his arms slowly come around her. “I remember it. That night. That moment with you.” He looked down at her, his eyes soft and amazed.
She smiled at him through her tears. “The other people in our village thought it was a pretty good performance, too.”
Keelath blinked, but he shook his head. “They cried, and we– Oh, Mirium, I can’t make those anymore. The tears…”
Mirium pushed out a ragged chuckle. “Then let me lend you mine.” She drew a thumb across her cheeks to collect the tears, then pressed it against his.
Their eyes met again, and neither of them could help it: they laughed.
“I’m sorry; I’m being silly,” Mirium murmured when she could breathe again.
“Mirium,” Keelath murmured, sounding like he was going to add something, but then he pulled her closer, head over her shoulder. “…I remember it now. Not all of it. But enough.”
Mirium let out another breathless chuckle, even as her eyes prickled with more tears. “What, my silliness?”
Keelath shook his head. His eyes were in the distance. He drew her close. She couldn’t hear his heart, and he breathed only to speak. “Mirium,” he murmured, closing his eyes and pressing his chin to her head.
The minutes felt like they had turned into long hours, if happy ones, when Mirium became tense again, putting a hand on Keelath’s shoulder and looking up. “There’s something you should know, Keel.”
Keelath peeled away from her, regarding her with calm curiosity, his face showing a quiet content, accepting and unafraid of the future.
Mirium felt a lump in her throat grow. She didn’t say it to him, but she recognized him in that look alone and knew there was more of the man she once knew still deep inside him, even if he denied it. She tucked a strand of hair behind one ear as she struggled to put words to her thoughts. “I had a child by another man, Keelath–when we all thought you were dead.”
Keelath’s gaze unfocused, as if he were looking through her. Mirium swallowed, and Keelath’s eyes lit back on her.
“This other man. Is he still in your life?”
Mirium shook her head several times, re-tucking the hair even though it hadn’t yet slipped out again. She made herself smile. “Our relationship actually turned out rather terribly, to tell you the truth.”
Keelath watched her; Mirium felt him squeeze her shoulder comfortingly.
She took a steadying breath. “No, Keelath. He’s not in my life anymore.”
“If there is the possibility he will come back, then I will stand aside–”
“No,” Mirium said swiftly. “It’s not like that. Keelath, you have to understand that I moved on. When you died…it was like my world was falling apart. I couldn’t stay like that. No one could have. He was there, and then I–then we–”
Keelath nodded, but he pulled a little further away. “I understand.”
Mirium matched his gaze. “Things will be different now, I know. That’s why I want you to understand. And I know you know that; I know that’s why you’re pushing me away now. It doesn’t have to be like this. You’ve come back. You’re home. …and now I am, too.”
They held each other’s gazes quietly, then one by one, looked down at the ground, at the dead leaves of the mulberries still strewn, dried and cracked, across the old tiles, down at their hands still laced loosely together.
“I will wait for you,” Mirium said softly. “If you can’t manage this yet. Now that I know you are out there–have been out there– It’s no different than those times you rode to war. I’ll still be here when you’re ready to return.”
“I might not.”
“That was always a possibility, even back then.”
Mirium didn’t look up, pressing a finger to his lips. As he fell silent, she slid her fingers under his chin instead. Raising her chin, she placed a gentle kiss on his mouth.
“Let’s not talk of this tonight,” she murmured to his cheek. “I love you so much.”
Keelath’s lips wandered along hers. “It will never be the same again,” he whispered.
Mirium nodded and broke apart to stare up at him–into him–with a touch of her old stubbornness. She cupped his cheeks in her hands. “It doesn’t have to be, for me to go on loving you.”
Keelath’s hands dropped back to her waist, pulling her close. Mirium sighed, leaning against him–into him. As one of his hands strayed up to twist her hair about his fingers, she closed her eyes. She let out a breath and let the reality of it go.
Tonight they would remember. When morning came–they would consider their new lives then.