Brothers Apart, Part Three

There weren’t crickets in Orgrimmar. Or if there were, they were an overly-large, spikey kind that couldn’t sing. That seemed to describe a lot of things in Orgrimmar, Mirium thought, as she listened to the muffled howling of one of the orcs downstairs as he tidied up the Doomguard barracks. The first time she had heard him, she’d come running with a weapon in hand to beat back his torturer. With an offended frown, the orc grunted he was only singing a traditional sweeping chanty and that that the cat seemed to like it. Mirium had slunk back to her room amid more bellows of sweeping off enemy heads and sweeping enemy legs out from under them and even sweeping through a land in conquest, feeling mortified and quite confused.

I preface this by saying, to those of you who may have been paying attention to earlier posts about Mirium and Keelath, that Tyrric’s wife is not Lellith. Or not anymore: Lellith is her own person and character, married (in character) still to the old Tyrdan, and who may or may not have continued doings in these stories as time goes on. Most of the basic plot points have been kept between Lellith’s character and Tyrric’s wife so as to smooth the story as it shifts between canons, but just as Tyrric is now his own character apart from the roleplay of any player-character, so Tyrric’s wife has no further bearing on what Lellith may do, and vice versa.

The wife character so far doesn’t have a name, as I didn’t expect her to play much of a role when we first wrote the canon split. As the darkness behind Tyrric continues to unfold however, I might have to add one! As it was, it was a fun challenge trying to write perspectives about Mirium and the wife together in the same scene, and I indicated some shifts in who the female pronouns refer to with italics.

Keelath’s icy aura to keep himself from rotting also plays a more prominent role here than in earlier shorts. I blame this on Orgrimmar being a very hot climate, whereas Quel’Thalas and some of the other settings weren’t so. Hey, loook, the dog ate my homework, okay?

Though this post is actually two shorts instead of one, I put them together as I felt they provided a nice contrast in what is going on in Tyrric’s marriage versus what is going on in Keelath’s. You see an insecure wife with a husband sliding into abusive tendencies and an insecure wife with a husband who is struggling back to humanity. (You also see me trying to find a better way of writing relational drama that doesn’t come down to just two people staying up late at night and talking. Lack of skill or a style choice? You decide.) Speaking of which, we really need a species-neutral term for humanity. Elfanity just doesn’t cut it! Help me out here, PR people.

Author’s Note

She lay across from him, and wondered if she still loved him.

The answer was immediate. Ridiculous. Of course she did! Her heart still pounded when he touched her, feeling like it burst from her chest when he remembered to look her way, or better yet spent long evenings with her. He had had so little of those to spare lately…

Maybe that was why it was so painful. Each absence was longer, each demonstration of affection less. He was just going through a hard time, what with his controlling brother and his patsy wife, she told herself.

Then she grit her teeth hard. She didn’t want to think of those two. She rolled a little closer to Tyrric, touching the nightrobed shoulder of his slumbering form. He had been too upset to even cuddle her to sleep tonight. Anger and feelings of abandonment flared, which she quickly shoved down.

She remembered back to their early days instead. Tyrric had seemed so head-over-heels in love with her. He had gnawed his fist to keep himself from gasping at that first gaze he laid on her, and his green eyes had glittered, almost knowingly, when she caught his glance and felt her heart flip inside her.

It had been so long since anyone had taken notice of her. Part of that was that she kept herself apart from most hints of romantic love. She didn’t feel very attractive, and most men she met seemed to agree. Her use of the fel had scarred her in more ways than one…

 But Tyrric had seen past all that. The first one ever to do so.

The first…

So when she felt a prickle of anger and unease again, she blamed it on Mirium. She was the one who couldn’t see the beauty of Tyrric, his great heart, the pains he had taken to keep Mirium safe from herself when she continued to pine after her traitorous Forsaken ex-husband. She deserved what she got in the end, and she, she was glad Mirium was gone. 

Wasn’t she? Hadn’t Mirium been kind to her? Yes, there had been that fight over her loss of control of the fel once, and when they spoke of her magic, those little half-wincing smiles. She had seen those before in others. Disapproval they politely wouldn’t voice, instead saving it for when they twisted the knife in her back at a convenient opportunity. Yes. That was more like Mirium.

Or was it…

She shook herself. When she allowed herself to feel it, past the anger, there was a wash of confusion, a jangling on her nerves like when her wards in the lab were triggered. It wasn’t with just Mirium, either. She had been shaken by so many of Tyrric’s squires leaving his service in protest of Mirium’s exile. Sure, she was a warlock, and Tyrric had always sworn he’d rather kill a man than suffer his presence if that man didn’t like her for what she was, but it hadn’t been for her sake the squires had left. It had been because of Mirium.

Because of Mirium. This time the burst of anger was old. Of course they’d support a fellow paladin instead of her, no matter all she had done to protect Quel’Thalas during the bad years, shortly after the Scourge invasion. She should be used to it really, but it still scraped her raw inside each time it happened.

With an effort, she dragged herself back out of the rumination. No, she wanted to think thoughts of love and belonging, not the cold and anger of exile. She rolled even closer to Tyrric and fondled one of his long ears. “Dalah’surfal?”

A grunt, then a soft frown. He was going to pretend to be asleep again, not having heard her. She felt a burst of anxiety and abandonment, oddly powerful tonight. It was just from witnessing the traitorous acts of the others, she told herself. Still she considered letting him have his way and sleeping on, but the anxiety kept unfolding in her chest. He had always promised to listen to her no matter what, she reminded herself. Nothing to fear. So, she would speak.

She touched his ear again, and her fingers and her voice were firmer this time. “Dalah’surfal, wake up. I want to talk to you.”

“Middle of the night,” Tyrric groaned.

“I know, but I can’t sleep.” When he still didn’t stir, she considered using the tactic that always brought him flailing awake in the past. “Tyrric. I’m scared,” she whispered.

He didn’t move. Had he heard her? Yes. He wasn’t just dozing off: his breaths were shallow, and his face still frowned. She felt another moment of jangling confusion at the rejection, but ever hopeful, moved closer yet and kissed the top of his cheek.

That worked. He unfolded into her and began to pay utmost attention to her, to her body. And it was wonderful, but…not quite what she wanted.

She froze. Maybe asking for what she did want, when he was being so generous to her ugliness, would be selfish. But the confusion was burning inside her, and then she thought of Mirium hanging around Keelath’s neck. If Mirium was worth such affection, surely she was too!

“Lovey, I just want to talk. Can I ask you something?”

Tyrric paused, making a grunt she couldn’t tell to be annoyance or assent. Blindly she plowed forward.

“Does it worry you the squires left?”

“Worry? No… It hurts me…” Despite his words, she could almost feel the energy of his anger through his skin. He began to rant, but in that gentle, deeply aggrieved voice, that somehow could scare her and arouse her at the same time.

This time, however, she just felt sick. She cut him short in his describing of Mirium’s shortcomings, and she felt the second vibration of his anger at doing so.

She ignored it. “Do you think they really meant it?” she asked.

“They’ll come crawling back, I’m sure,” Tyrric drawled in exasperation. He tried kissing her, but for a reason she couldn’t explain, she turned her face away from it. “Would you rather I tell them to stay away?” he asked in offended perplexity. “You know I’d do anything to help you feel comfortable.”

Yes, except wake up to talk to me without turning it into playtime. The vehemence of her thought startled her, and Tyrric caught her lips when she froze a second time.

Well, what was wrong with that? It did feel good. She felt secure in his arms. The squires may have gossiped about him flirting with Mirium, but he had chosen her over Mirium when it came down to it. He was hers.

And she, his. He rolled over and deepened his kisses, and she put her arms around him and squeezed tight. He cuddled with her, his hands and his voice proclaiming his love of her, scars and all. She closed her eyes and relived the first days of their courtship.

Yet, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t relax back into sleep. If Tyrric noticed, he said nothing, and she was still awake once he had dozed off for real.

***

There weren’t crickets in Orgrimmar. Or if there were, they were an overly-large, spikey kind that couldn’t sing. That seemed to describe a lot of things in Orgrimmar, Mirium thought, as she listened to the muffled howling of one of the orcs downstairs as he tidied up the Doomguard barracks. The first time she had heard him, she’d come running with a weapon in hand to beat back his torturer. With an offended frown, the orc grunted he was only singing a traditional sweeping chanty and that that the cat seemed to like it. Mirium had slunk back to her room amid more bellows of sweeping off enemy heads and sweeping enemy legs out from under them and even sweeping through a land in conquest, feeling mortified and quite confused.

The feelings of mortification only deepened as the days dragged by. She was here due the Doomguard’s courtesy to Keelath, using his room and bed since the death knight didn’t need such things anymore. He had been distant, a thrum of worry when he did stop by between patrols and other duties, and Mirium said nothing in fear that she was at the bottom of his unrest. 

It was odd, sad. She had hoped inserting herself in his military life would’ve meant a closer bond between them. Instead she only felt the weight of her own uselessness and fear. While everyone else attended to their duty, content and efficient, she sat and repaired buckles, or cleaned out the rooms the howling orc had missed, or sat and petted the cat, feeling worse all the time.

Now she lay awake as evening deepened into night. The howling orc finished his rounds about the mess hall with his broom, and with a final bawling flourish, retired for the night. She heard mutterings from the other rooms that might have been relief, then they, too, subsided away as the Doomguard slept.

Except her. Tears blurred the view of the candle on the bedside table. Missing Keelath ached, the confusion and fright of her exile throbbed, and her terror of being little more than a spineless hanger-on to the seasoned warriors here wanted to find a way to burst out of her in a high wail. Instead she only turned over and pretended she was truly alone, no others within miles, as she cried silently into the pillow.

If she slept, she wasn’t aware of it. The candle still flickered, creating quiet shadows on the wall up front of her. She wondered what had roused her, when suddenly the mattress bunched up under her, as someone heavier than she was sat down at the foot.

The bawling orc? she thought wildly, as memories of unwanted advances from Talthan and Tyrric swirled in her head. Or maybe she was being silly again; Tyrric had never acted on his obvious feelings for her, and Talthan had only done so out of emotionless duty, most of the time. Mirium peeked over at the intruder.

Keelath tugged off his boots with a grunt. His toes were black, and Mirium bit back a grimace as he picked at them, just out of her field of view. Then he gave a sigh–she hadn’t realized he had taken a breath, for he normally never breathed–then relaxed, and when the toes next swung into view, they looked normal. 

Of course. His illusion. Or his unholy healing or whatever he did, to appear as a mostly normal blood elf. He mentioned it stirred his bloodlust to do so, and she couldn’t repress a shudder.

That got his attention. “Are you awake?” he asked.

Meekly, Mirium nodded.

“How long?”

Her voice felt rusty. Did she ever talk to the other Doomguards at all? For shame. “All night.”

A flicker of the man he once was stirred the death knight’s facial features, and he seemed to swoop up to her. Mirium gave a cry and cringed back, and so did Keelath, his face twisting into a scowl.

No, a frown. She had hurt him. For shame, again.

“I’m sorry,” said Keelath.

“No, I should be,” said Mirium.

“For what?”

“Hurting you,” Mirium breathed.

Keelath just blinked at her, then he smiled. Smiled! Talthan would’ve used it as an excuse to list her other failings. “It’s alright,” he said. “Can’t be easy waking up to a ghost hovering over your bed, then coming to grope you with his icy fingers.”

Mirium let out a giggle at the same time her eyes clouded over with tears. “I thought you didn’t have those kinds of feelings anymore.”

“I don’t,” Keelath admitted. “Though I remember having them, and that is a pleasure in itself. Does that make sense? At any rate, I’ve been thinking I could be doing a lot better by you, and I came to check on you. That’s all.”

Him? Do better by her? And what did that, if anything, have to do with his toes? The familiar panicky confusion swept over her. “What do you mean?”

“I know this hasn’t been easy for you,” Keelath said, reaching out to touch her hip, and the ice inherent to him reached through to her even past the covers. She refrained from a flinch. “And I’m sorry I’ve been away. I was most concerned with getting us settled here, with no chance of pursuit and people whispering we might still be traitors.”

“Did Haljek tell you I was feeling poorly?” Mirium felt a little ill. She has asked the Zandalari spirit to keep the fact she cried through the nights to himself, but trolls had other ideas about morality and making promises…

Keelath just gave her a faintly offended frown. “Please, I’m not completely a heartless bastard. I could tell something was wrong by your behavior.”

She had hurt him. Again. More shame. “No. Of course you’re not,” she murmured and focused back on the wall, even as she wondered what detestable behavior he meant.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Keelath’s shoulders fall. She had never been good at lying, even with lies that weren’t really lies. She closed her eyes to keep herself from witnessing more of her failure, only to be startled when Keelath dropped his full length into the bed so he was between her and the wall she stared at. 

“Miri, what’s wrong?”

She cracked open her eyes. His voice and his doggish expression of woe reminded her so much of the good days when he had been alive that she started to cry. Light blast it. No, no, she couldn’t allow that. She rolled over to face away from him, but he put an arm around her and tugged her close. She tensed up just as much from the unwanted contact as from his chill, and he abruptly let go.

“I’m sorry. I forgot about that,” he grunted.

It took her a few minutes to get her voice under control. By that time, it was no use pretending anymore, and she said so. “I’m miserable,” she admitted. “I haven’t felt this lost and confused since Talthan tried to have me killed, and at least then I was in and out of consciousness most of the time so I didn’t have to feel it. Now I just feel so useless…”

“Worthless?” Keelath hazarded a guess.

“Yes…yes,” Mirium said, surprised he would say so.

“I understand.”

“No, no, you don’t!” The anger was as mournful as it was sickening. “You don’t know what it’s like to feel in constant danger, in the very places you should feel the most safe. To be so hated by the people who should love and r-respect you. Who should’ve been there to stop it all, and they weren’t!”

“Maybe not,” Keelath said carefully, “but I know what it’s like to fear death, even while yearning for it, and to feel alienated from one’s own family. Mirium, is this feeling in you because I died during the war?”

“Maybe. No. I don’t know.” She took a deep breath that turned into a sob. “I’m sorry. I keep falling apart on you, and you don’t deserve it. You’ve got so much else to worry about.”

“Maybe because I’m safe to fall apart on,” Keelath pointed out gently. “Look, I’ve seen a lot of different kinds of hurt during the war–wars. And the ones that take the longest to heal from are not the physical wounds, but the mental. You’ve got to stop beating yourself up for what someone else did to you. That’s the first step towards healing.”

Mirium sniffed. It was easy for him to say, but could she tell him the cruel things his brother had said to her, too? How she was overemotional, manipulative even, as her fears overreached her good sense? It was a personal failing. She tried, she tried so hard to hold them in, but it was like holding back a thundersquall. Just the thought of it made her want to curl up, or vomit until nothing was left of herself inside. Her throat tightened until she did fear she would make herself sick.

Only to realize something soft was pushing at her face. She opened her eyes–not realizing she had closed them–to see a pillow blocking her view, resting on her cheek.

“My apologies,” said Keelath from somewhere above her. “I know you don’t want me to hold you, but I think you should hold something.” He ducked his gaze when she glanced up at him. There was love there. And worry.

Mirium took the offered pillow and hugged it fiercely. She tried to get the whirling emotions inside her to shift, to come out, but just as suddenly they were dead inside her. She felt numbing fear and hopelessness instead, as icy in her guts as the frost on Keelath’s hands.

Keelath pressed something against her back–another pillow perhaps, since he was still refraining from touching her personally. She gasped and struggled to not struggle against the steady pressure, but despite herself, she did begin to calm.

“Oh, Keelath, what are we going to do?” she said once she trusted her voice again.

“I don’t know,” he answered from behind her. Most of the weight turned out to be his; he had just folded the blanket between them to keep away his chill. Mirium felt oddly touched by that. “I don’t like feeling helpless either, but it’s okay to admit that, sometimes, we are.”

“You say that, and I think of a million ways to make it sound like I’m just a horrible person who deserves all this.”

“Because you have been traumatized,” said Keelath, and it came out in a low growl. He must have felt her stiffen, because he quickly added, “and that makes me very angry, that someone would treat you so.”

“Please don’t get angry. You scare me when you’re angry these days.”

“I do?” His note of honest confusion broke through her haze of fear. Oh. He was being honest. “Anger is what kept me going when I was Scourge,” he went on after a long pause. “The anger that that wasn’t me, that I could make whoever had done that to me pay.”

“Could you?” Mirium asked bitterly. “Were you there when the Lich King died?”

“No, I wasn’t,” he said sharply, though she knew his anger wasn’t directed at her. “Nor was Sylvanas,” he added after a moment’s thought. “It didn’t break me though, because I still had thoughts of you. I decided if I couldn’t make the Lich King pay, then I’d put all that energy into continuing to do right by you and the rest of my family, even if I never would see you again.”

Her emotions flipped again, quick as blinking. She wished they would stop that, but hadn’t the first idea on how to make them do so. “I’m sorry your family turned out not to be worth it,’ she spat out, like a poison exhumed.

“Oh, but they were,” said Keelath, his tone gentling. “You make me alive. You remind me of softness and warmth when everything else can be so cold and hard and sharp.” She felt him roll his shoulders through the blanket, a nervous tick from when he had been alive. That memory, and the thought he still had that side to him, thawed her heart.

“And Tyrric?” she choked out. “Your brother. I–I’m sorry things got so bad with him.”

Keelath sighed. “He’s changed,” he murmured. “There is something wrong there, but I can’t put my finger on it. It made me furious when I thought he was just bending to the manipulation of that warlock woman to hurt you, but now I think that was all him. How, I can’t remember imagine… Miri? Do you think it mad of me to be certain he was not this cruel and selfish when I was alive? Or is it just a failing of…my memory?”

He put his vulnerability out there like an offering at her feet. She sighed and reached across the blanket to him, taking his hand even though the cold burned her. He quickly slipped a bit of the blanket between their palms so she could hold him tightly and not be so discomforted. “No, because that’s what I remember, too,” she told him. “That’s part of why this has been so confusing. With Talthan, there were signs of what he really was, even if I missed them or blithely ignored them. But Tyrric was always true. Until…until…”

“I returned?” Keelath asked dourly.

“No,” Mirium said, and wondered if Keelath blamed himself as much as she blamed herself. “Before that. It was after Talthan married me, after the Second War was won. Evelos was still fighting for the Alliance, and I wanted him to come home. Something Tyrric said….” She choked at the sting, still as fresh as it had been that day. 

“Mirium?”

“He said he loved me–d-desired me. That I was being just as selfish in wanting Evelos to change for me as wanting him–Tyrric–to just forget all about me and move on.” The blush on her cheeks was just as hot as it had been that day, too. She flustered her way through her next words. “I had just given birth to Medi a few days before. I was tired and missing sleep, a-and Medi was crying, and I thought maybe I’d misheard him. It was the only time he ever looked in on her, or me, since that.”

Keelath’s hands became like a vice around hers, then suddenly they eased. “Did you love him in return?” 

His voice was so mournful, as if expecting a rejection or the admission of a tryst, that she almost laughed. “Oh, Keelath. No. When we were all young and unmarried, maybe there were feelings, but you more than filled me. He was always, I don’t know, jealous of you in so many ways, and that was just one of them. But he was young, and he grew up. We all grew up. …he was a good uncle to Evelos. A good friend. I-I just thought he had put all that behind him.” 

Keelath was silent for a moment. “And Talthan? Did he know?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. Once I got pregnant he stopped spending as much time with me. Sometimes I wondered if it was because of Medi…” Her throat closed and she didn’t have the will to dredge up those memories. Not on top of everything else.

Luckily, Keelath was still focused on the topic of his brother. “So it is possible your exile was all a fit of jealousy? He married so quickly, as if to have something other than you to focus on…in spite…”

“Maybe.” She tried to pay attention to Keelath’s musings, but the bad memories seemed to rumble in her mind like thunder, and Keelath put a new fear in her. Would Tyrric’s unwanted attentions have grown to worse if she had stayed…?

“…so he kicked you away a second time, to keep himself from cheating,” Keelath was saying.

“Why would he cheat?” Mirium asked coldy. “He said he was deeply in love with the warlock. He made everything about her. Even when she lost control of the fel that one time and it was clearly her mistake, he blamed me for startling her into it!”

“Trying to convince himself, maybe, so he wouldn’t risk his made-up love of her,” Keelath said darkly, then paused again. “No. You’re right. It’d all be the act of a child, if that were the true reason. He was man grown enough to acknowledge those feelings and properly resolve them, without all the drama and lying.”

“But it would make sense, wouldn’t it,” Mirium said softly, more statement than question.

“It would,” murmured Keelath in an equally uneasy whisper. “And that is why something is wrong, very wrong. That’s…not my brother, Mirium. That’s not how he is.”

The obvious grief in his voice kept her from voicing her first thought: that that was how one with dishonorable intentions all along would act, in secrecy and with lies. Yet for all those years…centuries, even… even an elf couldn’t keep an act up for that long–especially not with two full-fledged priests in the family, between herself and Evelos.

“Something must have happened to him,” Mirium murmured. “The Scourge broke more than just our wards and walls. It could’ve gotten to him, broken him.”

“My brother,” Keelath said tensely, “was not one to blanch at war.”

 It was her turn to grip his hands tightly. “No, but there is still the naaru.” Keelath just looked at her in confusion, but she smiled faintly. “I think I know what I need to do now, Keel, to be useful. I’m going to be making a trip to the Outlands. Find answers there. For Tyrric and…maybe your bloodlust problem.”

Keelath thinned his lips in worry, but then he nodded. “Well, I am glad you’re feeling better,” he finished lamely.

It was then she felt a sudden rush of love and appreciation for him, a dawning sun on her confusion and grief. He was there for her, even if there were more obstacles between their love now than before all the wars. She couldn’t put aside her fears and pain entirely–maybe not ever–but she knew with more certainty now that she didn’t have to bear it all alone. “My husband,” she told him fondly, and watched with pleasure as a returning smile sprouted across his face. “Not so fast with you. You’ve been gone for nearly a month. We have some catching up to do, mister.”

“My pleasure,” Keelath growled, and they leaned into each other to kiss.

It was like kissing a bar of metal in the deepest part of winter. They gingerly detached with much wincing and apologies.

“Catching up to do…once you retrieve that charm that keeps your ice down,” Mirium amended once she was clear of him, rubbing her lips.

Keelath barked a laugh that she quickly tried to shush, so as not to wake the whole barracks. In answer, he smoothed the blanket between them for insulation. Mirium thought it wouldn’t last the whole night without the cold getting to her eventually, but she found she didn’t care. Maybe she was too exhausted to. He held her, and she slept, feeling secure in his arms as she hadn’t felt in decades.

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