What Darkness Lies, Part 1

Another long conversation piece, along the lines of The Long Talk and Reunion. (Reunion, being a fanfiction piece and speculation, has no relation to this post. It just represents a different take on Keelath and Mirium coming back together.)

This post was edited in July 2021, after first being created in May 2019.

Author’s Note

When Mirium woke up the next morning, she found herself staring at the ceiling for many long minutes. She was alone, despite the offered companionship of last night. She had turned Keelath away at the door. She couldn’t explain it, but she wasn’t ready yet to accept the death knight back, just like that, as if no years had passed since the day of his death.

Things had been a blur from the previous two days, a certain nightmare turned into an uncertain one. One minute she had lived in fear and starvation inside Ulduar, only to be delivered from the trap her hunters had laid forher by none other than her family. Yet that family was now a twisted mockery of itself, each person tainted or broken, changed from the people she remembered and loved.

Mirium wondered if perhaps Talthan’s research into the Void had done more than drive the two of them apart. Could it break worlds? Twist reality solely by existing? Her life had been turned on its head.

Mirium sat up, drawing the libram sitting on her bedside table towards her. She leafed through the holy pages, finding some comfort in its proverbs and ancient history. This was more the world she knew. She eyed the door and wondered how long she could stay behind it before her family came knocking in concern. There was so much to face out there that didn’t make sense; the libram offered her no answers, but no mysteries either. Its familiar wisdom was conventional and comfortable.

There was no wisdom in it on how to deal with a husband raised into undeath, though. Or on a son and daughter being tainted by Void, one dying from it. Or on her second husband, who had burned what was left of a withered marriage in an attempt to have her killed for her inheritance money. Even her brother-in-law, wedding himself to a warlock and ascending to the title holder of the Sunwalker barony, now seemed like a stranger. It was easier to just lie here than try to fit all the pieces together.

Eventually she might get hungry, she reflected.

Mirium pushed herself up, washing her face in the water basin and refreshing her clothes. She pushed the door to the Dalaran inn’s main hall open to a crack. Keelath stood there, between her room and Evelos’, still and silent, not even breathing as he stood sentry. Mirium shivered and was about to close the door again, when he glanced back at the soft sound of the hinges. He offered her a smile.

Mirium returned it, but they both knew something was off. Keelath’s smile faded, and he regarded her with sympathy.

“I’m going to go eat,” she told him.

“May I join you?”

A part of her recoiled, for reasons she didn’t fully understand. She had loved Keelath, hadn’t she? How many times had she cried over his death, wishing he had been alive and holding her again? Yet now that he was here and could do so again, she only felt reluctance and an odd ache in her stomach. She didn’t want him to touch her.

“If you want.”

There, he felt it too. He saw the gap between them, and was just as bewildered by its presence. Mirium gave him another strained smile, then started to duck past him.

He caught her. She froze, and at her stiffness, he let her go again.

“Miri…” Keelath steadied himself. “Mirium,” and his voice was different, more formal, “I would wish for us to speak.”

Mirium nodded and hesitantly took his offered arm. It was a familiar gesture from an ancient time, so easy and yet so strange now.

They walked down to the inn’s common room, and he just watched her while she ordered a light helping of the breakfast meal and ate. Tyrric had left to oversee the last preparations for his wedding, and Medyfivol always slept in late. There hadn’t been much stirring from Evelos’ room last night, but a red-haired human, which Mirium could only guess was Evelos’ mate, emerged and ordered a meal to go on a takeaway tray.

Mirium watched the woman as she leaned on the counter and waited, her face a patchwork of worry. She was slim and svelte, showing no sign of the pregnancy Tyrric had announced to Mirium last night, beyond a faint kind of halo around her, a sign of a second soul that only an elf could pick up on. The two women caught each other’s eye, and both smiled for the other’s benefit. Then the breakfast tray arrived, and the other woman was off, taking it briskly up to Evelos’ room.

“She is kind, if stubborn,” Keelath remarked. He had been observing the exchange.

Mirium looked back to him, but not precisely at him. “And now pregnant before they can even say their vows, the poor dear.” Her words sounded lifeless, even to her. Would Evelos and Breith wed? she wondered. Or would he die first?

“It’s a boy, I’m told,” added Keelath softly, as if reading her mind.

The dissonance between the new life and the impending death jangled against Mirium’s emotions. Her eyes wandered back to Keelath and his own sense of dissonance. He had been dead. Now he was back, but no one could call him alive.

Keelath wasn’t paying attention thankfully, instead watching Evelos’ intended mount the stairs.

“You’ll be a grandfather,” Mirium told him softly.

“And you, a grandmother.” He glanced over with a smile.

Mirium studied his face. There was honest joy and pride there. It was very familiar, despite the Scourge-light in his eyes, the signs of rot along his lips and brow.

Suddenly his face went blurry, and Mirium looked down at her bowl to keep the tears from tracking down her cheeks. “So, you wanted to talk to me?”

“Yes.” He offered a hand to her across the table. She forced herself to take it. “You’re hesitant around me,” Keelath said. “Why, might I ask?”

Why indeed. “I’m sorry, Keelath.”

“All of you keep apologizing to me, as if somehow nothing ever went wrong before in our lives,” said Keelath dryly. “Tyrric thought he failed me. Evelos thought I would hate him for his choices.”

Mirium looked up at him. She barely see him through the blurring, and she kept blinking so the tears didn’t spill over. Keelath placed a hand to her cheek. She shivered at the chilly undead touch. He seemed stung by her disgust, but mastered himself bravely and transferred the hand back down to her fingers.

“I’m sorry,” Mirium whispered again.

“Do you not wish to rekindle this?” Keelath asked gently. His voice carried no judgement in it.

“I don’t know,” croaked Mirium, and it was a crack in the ice grown over all the emotions she had been too scared and confused to admit to over the past few years. The words came tumbling out in a rush, and she tried to ignore Keelath’s baffled look. “Its not just you, Keelath, it’s… I-I’ve messed up a lot. Nothing’s gone right, not since you died–and I should have been there!”

Somewhere in her a dam had broken. She was vaguely aware she was babbling, as if she was sitting beside herself in that moment and watching herself fall apart.

“When you sent Tyrric and I away, I knew we had just made a terrible mistake. Then the first thing I saw coming back was the house…th-the burned garden…Tyrric wouldn’t let me see more. He went in, c-came back out with you, all covered in his cloak so we wouldn’t see all the blood and the-the—“

She paused for breath, some tiny part of her, buried deep inside, demanding she get her voice back under control and stop acting the fool. She had just escaped from assassins in Ulduar, and this was all she could think about? Something that had happened decades ago?

It was still too unreal, though: Keelath’s presence, Talthan’s betrayal, Tyrric saving her in the nick of time, Evelos dying of the Void, Breith pregnant with her grandchild…

At least Keelath was here, a solid thing before her. Could she clasp his wrist and close her eyes and pretend the rest of it was a bad dream?

“He—he said he found you,” Mirium stammered out, “wedged in a doorway with that old caretaker of the Kindlelight grounds behind you. You’d been trying t-to protect her, he said.”

“I remember,” said Keelath softly. He had borne the rest of her flood without comment. “She didn’t survive either, did she?”

Mirium shook her head wordlessly and buried her face in her hands. “I sh-should’ve been there… I couldn’t stop thinking…how terrified you must have been…all alone…”

Keelath touched her shoulder, leaning across the table to massage it. “I was terrified, yes,” he said when she didn’t go on, “but I was also delivered by the thought that you and Tyrric would live on.” Mirium choked up and sobbed a little harder. “Dearest, life is messy. If any of you had been in Thalas’Alah when the Black Horde came, you would have died. You would have shared my fate. That you haven’t, I am eternally grateful to the Light. It worked out in the end, no? Without Tyrric here now, I would have remained a heartless monster of the Scourge. Without you here now, I would not be able to call Medyfivol our daughter.”

“Our daughter?” Mirium hiccuped. “What about Evelos? W-what happened to him…that’s all my fault, too.”

“How do you mean?”

“I drove him away, when you died. Then when h-h-he saw what the Blood Knights had done to the naaru, I didn’t comfort him or explain. When they took h-him away, I did nothing to s-save him…”

Keelath shook his head slowly; he didn’t understand all of what she’d said, but he kept massaging her shoulder. “It is past now, Miri.”

Mirium couldn’t speak, overcome again with tears.

Keelath shushed her gently. “Evelos made his own choices, Miri, for which I am proud of him. He survived, which is more than many could have said, placed in similar circumstances.”

“H-h-he HATES me!” Mirium burst out. “And why wouldn’t he, after I put him through all of this? I broke the family apart. First with you and Tyrric… then Evelos… even Medyfivol… I don’t deserve you. I deserve someone like that… that rat, Talthan. I deserve his death!”

“That is not true,” Keelath said suddenly, sharply, “or I would not have trekked all the way across Northrend and disrupted my brother’s wedding to find you. You are letting the Old God’s whispers get to you, Mirium!”

Mirium looked up at him between her fingers, silenced by confusion.

“Yogg-Saron is dead, but his influence remains in Ulduar,” Keelath explained. “I know that you were following Evelos, and I know what you saw. His imprisonment in Undercity did not do this to him, though it perhaps weakened his resolve enough to make him vulnerable. He picked up the taint here, under Icecrown, and you almost did the same. Do not let it in, Mirium.”

Mirium hiccuped, and then blushed as she wiped her face with her hands. Keelath offered her her napkin. “You’re right,” Mirium said as she cleaned her face with it and hiccupped again. “You’re right.”

“You’ve been through a lot,” he said consolingly.

That started her hiccuping her way through another sob. “Not as much as you. Or our son…”

“It doesn’t matter right now. We’re both here… and we love you,” Keelath replied.

Mirium sniffled her way back to calm and then put a hand in his. “I—I know you do.”

Keelath let her sit for several long minutes, soaking in his presence and slowly calming down. “There’s no passion behind it anymore,” Keelath said eventually with an air of apology, as if asking forgiveness for adding more to her plate. “That’s what I wished to speak to you about. I tell you this, not to hurt you, but because you need to know. My memory fails me the longer I exist in this half-life. True happiness would forever escape us. A death knight cannot settle. My… needs… are different now.”

It was an odd thing to say, and Mirium tried to fit the pieces together in her head, but it was pounding from the recent crying, and she got the feeling Keelath was playing coy about something. “What do you mean?”

He met her gaze levelly. “I am a killer. The name for it is San’layn.”

“So you drink blood.” Mirium repressed a shudder and kept her hoarse voice as even as possible. “Cannibalize.”

Keelath watched her, expression grim. “If I don’t kill, I go mad. If I go mad, I kill. I was made to be an instrument of the Lich King’s will. I am in control of my bloodlust now, but only barely. I am a weapon with no wielder.”

“You are a man,” Mirium murmured, and it seemed like the tears would never stop coming. “A man with a f-family and home.”

Keelath looked at her sadly. “…I just wanted to see you safe, before I fell even further.” He didn’t seem to think this adequate but was lost for further words. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, he shifted in his chair to stand up.

Mirium caught his hand. Keelath paused. She massaged it, the cold flesh beginning to warm under her hands.

“ ‘Til death do us part.” She lifted her head, looking up at him with a squint, to see past the blur of her tears. “I kept your ring, even when I remarried. I lost everything on that day, Keelath.”

“On your marriage to Talthan, or my death?”

“Both.”

His expression grew concerned, and he slowly sank back down again. “Do you still love him, Miri?”

“No,” Mirium said quickly with a shudder, then, “Yes,” she admitted.

Keelath looked remorseful. “I’m sorry about this, but… you’re divorced from Talthan now. I’m afraid we got a little carried away and forced it on him after we learned what he was plotting.”

“We?”

“Tyrric and I. It was less than a couple months ago, before we could pick up your trail. We had just gotten wind of what he intended for you, and, ah, we acted.”

Mirium looked down.

Keelath was looking increasingly uncomfortable. “With my death, our own marriage is officially null as well. You are back to being a Summersong.”

“Summersong is dead, with the Third War,” Mirium murmured hollowly. “Most of the old families are.”

Keelath hedged. Mirium barely noticed through her misery. “You… could be a Sunwalker again, if you wished.”

“I thought you said you had no more love left.” Mirium sniffed, looking up at him.

“No.” Did death knights color? He looked embarrassed, but his cheeks were still pale. “I said there is no passion. That part of me…no longer functions.”

She couldn’t help it; the absurdity of it made Mirium giggle. Keelath looked befuddled, and she took his hands, gripping them tight like twin lifelines.

“You stay,” she stuttered out. “You stay, you horrible man. I still need you…”

***

Keelath made a sigh and rubbed his face. They had moved from the common room to the balcony outside Mirium’s room for more privacy. She still froze whenever someone came up the street, expecting more assassins, but Keelath’s presence was reassuring. He seemed to think the same of hers, and it wasn’t long before they were speaking like they used to: fully and honestly, though Mirium kept expecting to wake up from the dream at any minute. She no longer cried, but there was a lump in her throat that refused to go away.

“I admit,” Keelath was saying, “I don’t know what to make of Tyrric’s choices lately. Of this new world. Sometimes it’s as if he does things just to spite me, and at other times it’s like he has lost the old faith and wants my help regaining it.”

“Most of the sin’dorei are like that now, Keel. Your brother has been stronger than most of them.”

“I am aware, but it feels… wrong.”

Mirium drew lines down the tendons of Keelath’s hand with her fingers. He closed one hand about hers; the gesture was a familiar one to both of them. “The Horde are good people,” she assured him. “They’re a bit ruder than what you’re used to, but the orcs are sturdy and loyal. The tauren are a big-hearted people, who follow the Light like we do, though they call it something different, and even the trolls make me laugh sometimes.” She smiled. “It’s only the Forsaken that are a little—“ She looked at his tabard, of the Forsaken Queen, and stopped abruptly.

Keelath met her gaze dourly. “I swore an oath to them, Mirium,” he reminded her. “I am one of them, now.”

Mirium took a breath. “The old oaths between Lordaeron and Quel’Thalas don’t mean much anymore, love.”

“They mean as much as we make of them, and this is one I intend to keep,” he answered sternly.

“And our oaths to each other?”

They held each other’s gaze.

“…I’ve missed you, Keelath.”

“Where do we go from here?”

Mirium looked away. “A little backward and a little sideways, but mostly forward, I guess. Where else can we go?”

He didn’t answer. Mirium startled as a mage popped into existence at the Lounge’s entrance, but it was only a local teleporting to his favorite tavern for happy hour. Keelath glanced at her and came up the railing to stand beside her and steady her.

“I have no where to live right now,” Mirium murmured after a moment’s staring past the rooftops.

“Tyrric has allowed us rooms at Dawnmist.”

“Rooms, plural?”

“Room?” Keelath offered.

Mirium dropped a hand on top of his. “Do you even sleep anymore?”

“No, but I am patient if you desire something to cuddle.”

He managed to say it without cracking a grin. Mirium gave him a sharp look, but his expression didn’t change. He kept her hand in his, almost possessively.

“I suppose I’ve never tried death knight before,” said Mirium slowly.

“Have you made up your mind about us, then?”

“I don’t know.” She leaned into him. “It’s better than nothing, right?”

“That seems a little insulting, doesn’t it?” said Keelath.

“Sorry.”

“No, look, I understood what you meant. It’s not a simple choice. It’s not resuming our old relationship, for in many ways that is impossible now.”

Mirium shivered, just as much from the innate cold to Keelath’s body as her own feelings. “I am glad you’re back, Keelath. It’s just all a little complicated, isn’t it? And you, with your memories failing…”

“We’ll use what time we can.”

“I fear it may not be long,” Mirium whispered, and Keelath didn’t correct her. Slowly, with an effort, she removed her hand from his and turned away.

“Mirium?”

She gave him a shrug, not looking up. “I’m hungry again. It’s dinnertime.”

Keelath didn’t make a move towards her as she inched her way from the room. Like a mouse around the edges of a hallway… would her heart ever stop beating so quickly?

Would Keelath’s heart ever beat again at all?

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