What Darkness Lies, Part Four

Mirium continued to walk backward as Keelath started to move forward again. “That is not the right answer to that question, mister!”

This one probably makes it into the speculation pile rather than the canon pile, for the hopeless picture it paints of Keelath’s existence. In reality, I think Tyrdan is closer to the mark of what is actually going on inside Keelath’s head at present: that he is more emotionally driven and self-flagellating, and that a good part of his hopelessness is self-inflicted rather than the truth.

However, while I was writing for him for this piece, Keelath did what the best characters do and went off in his own direction. In the long run, who knows, maybe he does know best about the delicate situation he and Mirium find themselves in. It’ll be a question only further ingame roleplay sessions can answer, I think.

Author’s Note

The next time Mirium saw Keelath, some days had passed since her talk with Tyrdan, and she had almost forgotten about it. Seeing Keelath’s form, coated in ice, his helmet shielding his face from view, brought the memories wheeling back.

She surreptitiously tailed him as he reported in to Tyrdan. Their talk was not entirely calm, though she couldn’t hear the words. When Keelath left Tyrdan’s study, Mirium felt a breath of cold air proceeding him down the hall.

Nevertheless, she steeled her nerves and made as if to accidentally run into him, though her shoulder against his breastplate was purely intentional.

She quailed when he rounded on her, blue eyes flashing out of his helm, brighter than any quel’dorei’s could possibly be. She looked at him, and he at her.

“Hi.”

He nodded.

Now for the tricky part. She examined her fingernails. “Oh, I, uh, wasn’t aware you were back on the estate, but since you are, do you think you could sit and chat for a bit?”

He didn’t answer but to tip his head up. Mirium sighed inwardly. She looked at his hand, encased in a gauntlet, then pried the glove off of him, so she could latch her fingers around his. His flesh was cold enough to feel like ice. She bit back a wince and instead smiled up at him.

Keelath seemed to bear the contact for a little while, before taking his hand back. “Where do you want to talk?”

“Anywhere is fine.” She paused, truly hesitant. “The garden?”

“My cold is bad for Tyrdan’s flowers.” Was it just her, or did he sound slightly resentful?

“Can’t you just, you know, tone it down a bit?”

Keelath stared at her, and she thought she felt the air grow warmer–just a bit.

“Okay, so maybe not the garden. The pond?”

A grunt answered her. She turned to walk, and Keelath followed silently after. They passed along a couple corridors, into open air and then back out of it–in the manner of elven buildings everywhere, some of the chambers of the manor were open to the outside world. She paused in what was little more than a covered patio, taking a breath of the sweet-scented air. Tyrdan had planted mageroyal all along the verge, and the scent took her back to memories of the cottage she had shared with Keelath and their son, long before the Scourge had ever become a word on the tongue.

“Oh, Keelath,” she said with a sigh after a few minutes and began to walk again. “What are we going to do?”

“About what?”

“You. Me.” She turned around and walked backwards so she could see his expression, but it was hidden by Keelath’s ever-present full-faced helmet. “Oh, take that thing off, won’t you? I want to see your face.” When he didn’t, she stopped him, planting herself up front of him and putting her hands on his chest. “Keelath…”

“I have nowhere to put it,” came Keelath’s plaintive voice.

“So carry it!”

The helmet reluctantly came off. His expression was grim, and his face seemed a little less well-preserved than usual. The skin was a little more flaccid, a little more pale and patchy.

They looked at each other for a long moment. Mirium decided it was as good a time as any, even if they were standing in the middle of a hall.

“Keelath, I’m worried about you.” She bit her lip. “Tyrdan’s worried about you. He had a go at me about it earlier. Even Medi’s worried, and she doesn’t usually notice these things. Are you sure you’re, you know, all right?”

A muscle tightened in Keelath’s jaw. “I am fine, Mirium.”

“See, you say that, but you’re cold enough to freeze flesh off the bone. You barely visit the estate, and when you do you’re in and out like a great angry felbat. Keelath, what’s wrong?”

Keelath closed his eyes, trembling as if struck. Then he made as if to forge past her. She stepped in his way and pushed him back. He was surprised—she was a good deal smaller than he was.

“Nothing that can be helped,” he finally said. “It’s better to just let it alone, isn’t it?”

“Maybe,” said Mirium, taken aback by his rebuff. “But maybe I’ve been trying that, and you just seem all the more upset for it. Tyrdan had a word for it. You’re off ‘nobly suffering’, all by yourself, on the front.” She couldn’t help a sniffle. “And it’s my fault, isn’t it?”

Keelath stared at her. “No. We made our decision. I’ve accepted that.”

“Just because you’ve accepted it, doesn’t mean you have to be happy about it!”

“And?”

“And, well, your feelings matter, you great, big lunkhead!” Mirium winced tears away. “You do still have feelings, don’t you?”

Keelath shifted. “Mirium, this isn’t really the time or place—“

Mirium stared at him, taking a step back. His face became pinched. He had never spoken to her like this, even when she had been at her most emotional–when Evelos had wanted to join the First War efforts. She wasn’t about to let Keelath go, though. She continued to walk backward as he started to move forward again. “That is not the right answer to that question, mister!”

Keelath huffed a sigh and turned to her. “Alright? Alright. Fine. No, no I don’t. No memories, no feelings, except what drives me to keep on everyday instead of lying down and letting the hunger or the final silence overtake me. I warned you. I warned you both. Why do you not listen to me? I told you this would happen eventually.”

“Oh, Keelath.” She felt like she was collapsing in face of his frozen advance. “I do listen to you, every time you speak—“

“Then listen to me now. Stop worrying over it. It won’t bring back what was lost. It won’t make anyone feel better. This—what I am—doesn’t change. …I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too,” murmured Mirium, and she folded into him for a hug, not caring about the cold metal of his breastplate sticking to her cheek.

He looped an arm around her. “I don’t mean to upset you. I just don’t think you—any of you—understand.”

She looked up. “So help me?”

Another sigh. “When I look at you, half of the time, I don’t even know you. The times I do, I remember you as a wife, but that’s all. No feeling. No attachment or connection. No nothing.”

“A-and Tyrdan?”

“The same. I speak to him for courtesy’s sake. I can’t reclaim what we were.”

“You say that like it hurts you—“

Keelath grunted. “It gnaws. I can still read people’s emotions even if I can’t join in. Their disgust and fear. I see Tyrdan’s hope and love for me, and I see it crashing every time I must disappoint him—even sometimes I am not sure why. A little memory gone, an inside joke I didn’t laugh at, something I might have believed then but don’t believe now. But I can’t lie to him. I can’t change myself to fit this fantasy I don’t know, even if I could remember what it was.” Keelath looked away. “Nor is that the worst of it. He doesn’t know the things I have done as a knight of the Lich King.”

“Keelath.” Mirium reached up to his shoulders to brace him, shaking him until he looked down at her. “It doesn’t matter, what you’ve become or what you did. You are—were—my heart, and I’ll always support you, even more so knowing how much those things pain you.”

“Ah,” said Keelath, and his tone was sardonic. “What if they did not pain me? What if there was no guarantee I would not do such again? The murders, the agony, the blood—as enticing as courtship once was to me as a living man. What if I even lived for it…?”

Mirium suppressed a shudder and tilted her head up defiantly. “I don’t believe you’d say it that way if you were truly okay with it.”

“And maybe I’m not, but it’s on an intellectual level only, do you see? I can’t be with you. Eventually, the hunger would be stronger than my mind. Among my own kind, there is little danger of snapping, but among the living, there always is.”

A wild thought overtook her. She knew he could raise the dead to be like him—unliving. What if he did that to her? What if she encouraged him to?

Just as quickly she realized the foolishness of that thought and banished it. “Okay,” she said evenly. “You’ve given me the party line. Now what do you really feel?”

Was that a crack in his eyes? “Mirium…”

She stood on her tip-toes, the better to look him in the eye. “I lived through the Scourge attack and witnessed a lot of horrible things, Keelath. And I lived with Forsaken and even made a few friends among them whom I helped through their troubles, much like I’m trying to help you. I wasn’t born yesterday! Now what do you feel?”

Keelath was quiet for a long time, staring at her, then staring into space. “Loss,” he finally said.

“Yes.” Mirium closed her eyes. “And?”

“Jealousy. Shame.” He looked down at her. “Longing.”

She nodded and stood on her tip-toes again to kiss his lips. He kept them pressed together, and she soon relented. “I’m trying not to give up, Keelath. You speak to me like you want me to.”

“I merely don’t see the need to keep beating your head on a stone wall,” Keelath replied. “I am not trying to take away your hope. That is your gift as the living.”

“It can be your gift, too. It once was.”

“So Tyrdan has told me.”

Mirium looked down. “So, you plan leaving again? Before the night has passed?”

“Yes.”

There was another wisp of something unspoken in his eyes. Mirium caught it and stretched up to kiss him again. This time he responded, only slightly, a tightening of his arms about her and an opening of his lips.

“I love you, Keelath,” she whispered into his mouth.

“I know that I once did, too.” He broke away to look down at her sadly.

It struck a soft place inside of her, and she leaned forward on him to cry. At first her wet cheek stuck to his icy armor, but then the whole thing misted and dripped. Keelath held her stoically.

“You know,” she said through sniffles, “this is proof you still love me.”

“Um?”

“Any other death knight would have left, sooner than allowing the chance their armor should rust over.”

That got an honest smile of him. His arms came a little closer around her, but he didn’t close for a third kiss.

Finally Mirium pushed away. “Go on, then. But write me, love. Frequently, and about everything.”

Keelath regarded her. Then he said with a nod, “Very well,” before he turned away.

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