The next day she was unreasonably overjoyed to see Keelath had returned, waiting to greet her in the hall as was his ought since her return. He seemed distant as she hugged him though, and she began to cry again, despite her best efforts to keep a brave face. “I’m s-sorry.”
He looked down at her with some consternation. “You shouldn’t be.”
“Well, I am,” she told him stubbornly, and was rewarded with a weak smile and handclasp.
The smile soon faded. “I leave tonight for the mustering grounds.”
“Most of the Horde combatants are still living, and require food and drink and sleep. They have given me a few days to arrive as is customary for the living, too, but…”
Mirium stepped back. It was what she had asked of him, and still seemed the most right course, but his indelicate reminder of his leave-taking still hurt.
“I likely won’t be here when you return,” Mirium murmured. “Tyrric and Alelsa are due back soon. I have my farrier business to support me, and the smithing of weapons and armor besides…”
Keelath nodded. They both knew she could make a comfortable, if hard-working, living off of her craft. “I could use a new utility knife, if you have the mind,” he said then, giving her a gentle smile, and folded in it was an olive branch. Mirium smiled back even as she felt the returned urge to cry.
“Of course, dear.”
He made a move as if to kiss her, but clearly thought better of it, then broke away to oversee the first major chores of the manor’s day. Mirium turned to attend to breakfast, and then the firing up of the outdoor forge. The morning was still cool, but soon she was perspiring from the heat and the effort taken to beat a new knife’s metal into form. Not all sin’dorei deigned to still do the hammering by hand, instead making use of magic, but the hard physical work of it was calming to Mirium, giving her different aches to focus on.
Fire ran up and down the blade as she quenched it, and after checking its length for cracks and straightness, she laid it aside to cool. Her mulling thoughts were back with her as she next completed the steps of tempering the metal and then giving it an edge. The thoughts weren’t much more helpful this time around and didn’t come to any different conclusions.
Keelath graciously didn’t press matters when she returned inside to look over the manor’s short supply of wood stock and ask him if he had any preferences for the knife handle’s design. He was professional, not even a little bit of anguish in his eyes, as he made his choices. Did they have anymore to talk about?
The knife was done that evening when Keelath was making ready to leave. Mirium brought it out to him, in its wooden sheath that matched the handle’s wood. She got a small laugh from both of them as she presented the blade like she might a fine sword. Keelath’s hand paused over hers as he took it from her.
“Anything you want me to pass along to your brother?” Mirium asked after an awkward pause.
“He already knows the most important parts,” answered Keelath, then, finally, there was that flash of anguish in his eyes. “Except about us.”
Mirium stood on her tiptoes to kiss him, though it was a chaste kiss and soon over. She regarded him quietly while he turned to lay the knife in along with the rest of his scant belongings in his saddlebags.
“They were the best years of my life, Keelath.”
He glanced back.
She sighed. “The best and the longest, but all things come to an end eventually.”
He turned and they clasped hands again. There was nothing else to say. He swung up on his courser, and with one last look back, trotted to the gate.
This time, Mirium didn’t cry. She watched him until he was out of sight among the trees and his horse’s clacking hooves out of earshot. Then she returned to the manor, to make it ready for Tyrric’s return.
Life had gone on.