She stared at Tyrric. Something in her chest was struggling to get out, beating wings of distress against her rib cage. Then the vertigo came. What was happening? How had this come to be? What was up? What was down? And suddenly she stood on the edge of a deep chasm, and the familiar, terrible darkness in it of blame and despair was rising up to grasp her.
Still Tyrric watched her, his face cool, eyes without emotion or pity. Face of a predator! screamed one part of her. No, it’s just Tyrric, said another part, that oddly sounded like Keelath.
Just Tyrric. Supposed to be safety. Helping her. He wasn’t. It was a lie, a horrid lie, and her anger bubbled, too great and terrible to express. Nowhere to go. Then the emotion turned to panic and pain. Nowhere to hide.
She barely noticed that Keelath was now striding towards Tyrric, back stiff and teeth bared. Would he kill his own brother? No, that wasn’t right… “Keelath…” The words slipped from her mouth, sliding down her faint exhale, seeming softer than a leaf falling from a tree.
But he heard her, and paused, looking back. His glowing eyes pierced her, bright with rage. Yet they were a human rage, not the cold, empty look of the Scourge. The same rage he had worn when he had advanced on her ex–she shook the image from her head.
Tyrric was saying something, something final and cold. He took the hand of his wife and led her away. Sudden anger snapped in Mirium–that cowardly traitor!–but it was soon layered under with pain. So she had abandoned her, too. Thought she was worthless. Deserving of it.
Tyrric hadn’t even looked back. He hated her, she knew with sudden certainty, a weakness in her middle. Why? She had done what she thought was right, pushing past every obstacle to rescue Keelath, whom they both loved. So what if it had kept Tyrric from arresting him for the Horde–that had not been an intentional flouting of the Blood Knight’s authority, and Mirium was not convinced Keelath would be treated well in their prison anyway, whatever assurances Tyrric might give her. So why could he not understand that? Was it jealousy? Pride?
Or something darker. A deeply embedded need to control and to punish…?
Or something darker still.
Maybe she had deserved it, after all.
The darkness in the chasm inside her crashed over her. Blindly she turned away from Keelath and the departing couple and staggered out of the room and the house. She didn’t know where she was going. She couldn’t hear or see anything past the waves of what felt like death coursing through her. Death. No hope. No one cared. Hated her. She was wrong and ugly inside. She was wrong, she was wrong, she was wrong, wrong, wrong-wrong-wrong wrongwrongwrong–
It was Keelath who slammed into her from behind. She squealed and shoved at him as they went down in a furious tangle. He grappled her, tried to get his arms around her. The physical shock of it cracked through the spreading ice in her head. He was attacking her? Because of what his brother had said? She struggled, biting at his shoulder, but he had her in a bearhug now, squeezing the life from her–
And then he let go. Mirium tried to squirm away, but then his arms were back, squeezing again. Then he let go. This time she sat, stunned. The third time was gentle. Arms came up about her, and he rocked her. He was talking, she realized dimly. Meaningless words of soothing and love.
They weren’t fighting. It took a moment for that to sink in. Confusion bloomed. They were both sitting on the ground. He must have tried to embrace her and she fought back, or he had tripped as he had come after her and landed on top of her, maybe. Or was she the one who had tripped…? She couldn’t remember.
Now he was holding her, trying to comfort her, to snap her out of her daze. That was all.
She tried to sink further into her fear, instead. She didn’t deserve this. Couldn’t he see the gaping hole in her, that would swallow him, too, if she allowed him to get too close? Tyrric saw it, as did his wife. Why couldn’t he? She pushed back against him, but as always he was the stronger, and stronger still in undeath.
Rock, squeeze, let go. Soothing words. Rock, squeeze, let go.
It was Keelath. Just Keelath. He still loved her, despite whatever horrible mistake she had made to cause this.
Relief so cool it burned burst up inside of her, through the ice, streaming down her cheeks as tears. She leaned into him and sobbed. Still nothing made sense, but here was something solid, at least. Here was something she could hold onto, until the world stopped swirling and started making sense again.
He commanded himself not to flinch, and with a kind of gratitude felt affronted anger replace the weakness in his limbs. How dare his brother question him. How dare Mirium defy him. After all he had done for her! Putting up with her moping and her obsessions, while he moved past it all, making a future where no one thought there was the possibility of any.
And his brother. For too long Tyrric had ignored the corruption circling his brother’s heart, that caused him to serve Sylvanas. Tyrric was weary of the confusion, of the sense that Keelath truly believed, in a part of him still touched by the Light, that he was doing the right thing. It was ludicrous. Old God corruption, or something else. Now that he thought of it, he could recall a time when Keelath had intentionally humiliated him over a game of Nine-Stars and then tattled to their father when Tyrric had retaliated against the unfairness. Maybe his brother had always been evil, and only now, when he stood to lose everything, was it coming to the fore.
This time, Tyrric would take action, not wallow in the ashamed helplessness he has felt back then. Not like Mirium, certainly.
That contempt made it easy to ignore the woman staggering from the room. More than that: let her reel! It was no more than she deserved.
Maybe, but deserve for what? some faraway part of him made itself heard with its cool logic. Tyrric hurriedly squelched it before the thought could grow anymore.
Let action speak now, he told himself.
He left the room, hoping that finality would get it through Keelath’s thick skull that he meant it this time. He felt his wife’s hand take his arm as soon as they were clear. There was an urgency to it, a soft press in her fingers. Tyrric ignored it. If you ignored the shame, it eventually went away. He lifted his head. He had a manor to see to. Fierce contentment rose in him. A manor he had made himself, and had now cleansed of all that would threaten its purity. His manor. His people–
Keelath and Mirium, too? The small voice intruded again. At one time, Tyrric’s circle of protection had included them. But no more. Tyrric gave the voice a harder shove away.
No more doubts. No more of that endless pain and sleepless questioning. When his wife’s fingers almost became claws on his arm, he detached them with firm gentleness and set her on her way. He carefully didn’t look at her. He didn’t want to see the doubts reflected in her eyes. She would understand eventually. She would have to.
Her eyes were indeed hard as she left.
He crossed to the window and looked out. The manor was quiet now, most of the squires asleep in bed. He frowned at the bulk of the stables looming in the darkness on the other side of the gardens. He’d have to find a new stable master, now that Mirium was gone. Furen could do it. Then he could start interviewing in the morning. All would be fine. All would go according to plan. He was good at making plans.
Just as Keelath had been good at correcting their minor flaws and then seeing them through.
Tyrric’s knees buckled at the thought. Sudden grief overwhelmed him. He tried to turn it into anger. You could shape anger, make something of it…
But what was there to make of this, truly? Was he really just soiling his own bed, one he now had to lay in, as his brother thought?
What was the cause of Keelath’s long stubbornness and obsession with Sylvanas? It could not be love or loyalty: that was foreign to the undead. If Keelath loved him, he wouldn’t act this way, Tyrric was sure.
And why was he wallowing? He had promised himself he wouldn’t do that.
Tyrric shoved himself back to his feet. There was work to do, a new stable master to find. He turned away from the window and went to his study, to complete the process of purifying his manor. He was right. The rest of the world just had to wait and see to believe it. Apparently.
“You did what?”
Furen was not normally so evocative. Tyrric lay down the scroll he was perusing slowly, frowning at the nightborne.
“Did I not make myself clear?” he asked. “The stable master position is now empty. You are to assume those duties until I find another to fill it.”
“I know. That’s…not what I meant. You exiled Mirium?”
Was this what it took to get a rise of loyalty out of the rogue? Interesting. “I’m not sure why she is so precious suddenly,” Tyrric said acerbically. “One would think you were thinking with your infatuation of her and not your head. She is a traitor, thrown her lot in with Sylvanas’ loyalists. At least I did not execute her! Now she is free to take her beloved and go–“
“You think I am infatuated?” The outrage he had provoked in the nightborne gave Tyrric a little thrill.
“Prove me wrong,” Tyrric said smoothly. “I know how you lingered outside her door at night. I suppose it a good thing, ultimately, that you never gained the courage to inquire within, or you would feel some heartbreak over all this, if not Keelath’s fury–“
“I lingered because I could hear her crying,” Furen replied stiffly. “For her husband. She was afraid she would lose him in the war. She would’ve done anything to save him–“
“And she did, didn’t she?” The thrill was souring. The rogue was beginning to annoy him with foolishness. “By committing treason. I didn’t sign the name that put her in contract to that demon woman, or was the head that came up with the notion that Keelath wasn’t safe in Horde custody. She committed the act, and now she has paid the price.”
“Extenuating circumstances–” began Furen.
“Are you telling me how to run my manor?” Tyrric raised a cool eyebrow.
Tyrric eyed him during the silence that followed. Perhaps his cleansing of the manor wasn’t complete. Furen would fight this decree, obviously. Well, Tyrric didn’t have to listen to it anymore. He did not have to harbor any more sympathizers of his brother, or of Sylvanas! From now on, only the people he chose need stay…
He schooled his voice and his face to disdain. “If you cannot do the tasks I’ve set for you, Furen, you can leave my employ.”
He expected the fool to cringe and wheedle his way back into Tyrric’s good graces. It would be gratifying, really–finally a show of respect for his power.
Instead, the rogue startled him by slapping a hand to the desk. “I resign my services,” he said thickly. Furen’s voice was shaking. Fear? No, fury. Interesting, Tyrric thought, even as he suppressed a sudden flip of fear for what else the nightborne might do.
“Then take your withered hand off my desk,” Tyrric snarled.
Furen met his eyes, glowing silver to glowing gold. And he did remove the hand, but then he spat on it, and rubbed the saliva into the fine grain as a vicious grin spread across his face. “Polish for you,” he said coyly. “I can’t reach your boots from here, unfortunately–“
The hammer of Light came to being, unbidden by his thoughts. Tyrric wasn’t sure if he had hit the man with it, or if the nightborne had merely gone over backwards to avoid it. Still, Furen rolled away, and Tyrric leapt on top the desk, rage singing in his veins like wine.
He slipped on the spit, falling hard on his tailbone.
Furen was out the door by the time he had recovered.
Humiliation. Humiliation become rage become…how to handle this gracefully? He certainly wasn’t graceful, sitting on his rump in another man’s saliva. He must appear graceful. He was a baron, Light damn it–
“Furen!” Tyrric shouted, then, “Wife!” when he realized Furen wouldn’t answer him.
Furen wouldn’t answer to his call ever again.
“Wife!” he called more loudly, shrilly. He banished the sudden notion that his life had suddenly become the polished steel jaws of a bear trap, closing around his neck.
And I the one to put it there, said the quiet voice. It sounded as smug as a child.