Brothers Apart, Part Four

“Yes, but did you ever think about what it had meant to me?” she returned hotly.
“Isn’t that what I am doing now?” he asked.

Another quasi-comparison. What the brothers do when their spouses are upset…

Also, why is Tyrric such a jerk? Hmm, I wonder…

Author’s Note

When he didn’t think about it, things were fine. 

He had replaced the squires who had left the manor, all with good sin’dorei stock from Silvermoon, who looked up to him with respect and admiration and viewed his indulgences with his warlock wife with good humor or at least with acceptance. The training was progressing even faster than before, and Tyrric was fiercely proud of his students. Once N’Zoth showed his tentacled face to the Horde, these men and women would be among the first to start poking the creature’s many eyes out, Tyrric was sure.

And so the days were good, a fuzzy warmth of pride interrupted occasionally by the intoxicating glee of a duel to test his squires’ skills. Those always ended too quickly, he felt. Then at night, he engaged in another kind of duel and retired with his wife, consistently each night for the first time in months. With the peace declared between Alliance and Horde, there was a lull in the fighting, which Tyrric sought to fill eagerly.

But his hopes for a pleasant training season would eventually be quashed. Not for the first time, and so he tried to grin and bear it when the disappointments cropped up. Never let anyone see in him what might be weakness, a crack to reveal him and exploit….

One of those disappointments was that his wife was colder to him. The leaving of the squires had shaken her, Tyrric believed, despite how many times he sought to assure her they had been the weakest of the lot, that they could stand to lose them, that it was even better that they had left!

“Yes, but did you ever think about what it had meant to me?” she had returned hotly one time.

“Isn’t that what I am doing now?” he returned. Honestly he was confused, and a little annoyed at her vehemence.

“No. You’re only thinking of your paladin empire,” she replied bitterly, and then did some warlock thing to disappear to another dimension before he could reply.

He had gotten very angry then–how dare she not give him a chance to talk things through! Yet he had clenched his teeth and borne it, trying to shove it to the back of his mind so he could concentrate on more pressing matters–such as beginning the mental training of his squires, to prepare them against the telepathic lies and attacks by the Old God and his minions. For that, he requested a trainer from the greater Horde, and they supplied one, though not one to Tyrric’s liking.

The priest that had come to help lay wards and teach mental discipline was a Forsaken. Tyrric greeted him with immediate dislike, but he conceded the point of the Horde’s leadership: that they could not suffer any infighting now. Still, he took his pleasure by making the priest’s stay as unpleasant as possible, with little jabs and teases and the odd slight with seating arrangements at the dinner table or posting the loudest squire at the priest’s door at night while he was trying to sleep–if the undead did sleep. That piece was downright creepy and unnatural, Tyrric held, though privately.

The priest, gratifyingly so, began to hate Tyrric right back. Tyrric took it as a sign of the quality of his techniques. He had learned them from his brother, taking innumerable brotherly taunts and spats and twisting them to suit his undead target instead. It seemed to work well, and would ensure the priest wouldn’t return after his duty to the Horde was done.

Yet, every once in a while, Tyrric would stop and wonder how this much good could come from his brother’s cruelty when they had been children, and then that thought was stopped further still when he realized he couldn’t remember Keelath ever actually being cruel. At least that sudden vertigo wouldn’t last for long; he would lay eyes on the Forsaken and remember that lies about intentions was just one more way his brother had abused him. This little bit of revenge against Keelath and his loyalties was then sweet.

It didn’t surprise Tyrric, not really, when after going through a number of meditation exercises with the squires one day, the Forsaken pulled Tyrric aside and told him it was his turn. Tyrric submitted to the suggestion gracefully enough, but his ire began to prickle again when the Forsaken led him, not to the gardens, but to his wife’s laboratory under the manor.

And surprise beyond surprises, his wife was there as well.

“I see you’ve been dragged into this most entertaining pastime as well,” he said to her drolly, and hoped the barb in his words hit the Forsaken.

“Tyrric,” his wife said sharply, then suddenly deflated again when he glared at her. That was more like it.

“Your wife believes you may have picked up a taint of the Void while fighting in Nazjatar,” said the Forsaken priest, much to Tyrric’s annoyance, in the following pause. “She has asked we meet here, under the wards of her lab, to investigate.”

Tyrric stared hard at his wife for a moment, but she was carefully examining her nails. So he sighed, rolled his eyes hard, and brought up a strong shield of the Light around his being. Remembering Keelath’s undead aversion to the Light, he turned up its power, smirking when the Forsaken obligingly flinched.

“If I were so tainted, do you really think I could do this?” Tyrric asked lazily.

“Priests of the Forsaken mix the two magics all the time,” his wife said softly and was rewarded with another glare.

“And that spell should’ve purged all corruption from me if there was any,” Tyrric retorted. “Uther’s Divine Shield, they call it, though you really do think he could have used it in his fight against Arthas if he had really been the mastermind behind its creation.”

His wife and the Forsaken said nothing, only looking at each other uneasily. Tyrric saw the uncertainty, and he didn’t like it. He decided to take control of the situation immediately.

“There, now that that’s done, maybe you can tell me why you ever possibly thought I had been corrupted.”

His wife winced at the barb. Tyrric gazed at her from under half-lidded eyes. He sensed the Forsaken puffing himself indignantly, but what could that priest do, really? Tyrric was pretty sure he knew where the trouble really lay, and what was between his wife and him was not for the Forsaken to worry about.

“Well?” he asked when his wife still came up empty for words.

She let out a breath. “Nevermind. I was mistaken. I hope you can forgive me.”

“Of course,” Tyrric purred, suddenly all syrup and warmth now that she had admitted her error. You had to lavish praise on them sometimes, to get the Titans’ creations to obey–wait. To get his underlings the obey. …no. To soothe his wife’s feelings after she had been hurt. There, that was better. 

“Now, let’s go to lunch and hopefully forget all about this incident,” said Tyrric, offering his hands to her, and she put hers in his willingly, with a little smile. Perfect.

Perfect, that is, until the Forsaken cleared his throat, with a ghastly gurgling that reminded Tyrric of just how little throat the man had left.

But the situation was still his to control, so he broke in before the Forsaken could say anything. “But yes, I agree, it’s very important everyone is tested for the influence of the Void before we march into battle. Start with the squires, especially that Lightfeather fellow, I believe I saw some peculiar shifting of the eyes going on when he gave me my oath.” He smiled as reassuringly as he could to the wife. “Of course the leader of the unit is most important of all to be checked. Once my squires are done, we’ll come back down here and let this little man run his tests on me. That will put you at ease, won’t it?”

“It will,” his wife agreed quietly.

Of course, by that time Tyrric was resolved to have replaced the Forsaken priest with someone a little less pushy. Did the priest suspect? Tyrric looked at the Forsaken and made a smile-turning-smirk. Whether he did or not, there was certainly nothing he could do about it. And if he did try, he was a Forsaken, and Tyrric could simply out him as a Banshee loyalist and be done with him. His smirk turned into a grin.

The Forsaken, in response, only considered him grimly and then  bowed low, taking the opportunity to exit the room. Tyrric turned back to his wife, who was plucking at his shirt insistently.

“It’s not even noon, dear. But oh, I think you need indulging. Shall we?” Tyrric asked coyly.

His wife stiffened in his arms, then abruptly relaxed. Was there resignation in her eyes? That wouldn’t do….

“Yes, beloved,” she said to him softly, and there was another flash of meaning in her eyes that Tyrric couldn’t decipher, before she leaned against one of her work tables.

Couldn’t decipher, and soon enough, was too busy to, anyway. Disaster turned triumph, as Tyrric knew he had a knack of doing.

***

She focused on her breath. Beside her, Keelath’s breaths rattled almost in time with hers. Though the death knight didn’t need to breathe, the priest guiding their meditation had recommended it, and so Keelath dutifully did his best. Reminded of the spark of the persevering husband she loved that still resided in those cold bones, Mirium smiled and let her hand drift to Keelath’s. He squeezed back, Aylina’s charm doing its job and allowing Mirium to feel his ice as a living warmth instead. 

The hand-holding wasn’t part of the meditation, but she didn’t think the priest would mind. He continued to guide their practice without a hitch.

“Let the thoughts come, then let them be on their way. The thoughts and emotions are not you, merely things you think and feel. Watch them come, and then go, like the tides on the beach.”

“I see red tides washing over corpses left to rot on the rocks,” Keelath growled.

“Husband,” Mirium admonished, and Keelath made a grunt that almost sounded like a chuckle. Their guiding priest was an orc, a young one newly come to the Light, and Mirium couldn’t decide if Keelath was teasing them both with such gruesome images or not.

“Watch the red tides come and go, and wash clear in doing so,” suggested the priest. “Watch the corpses tear and fragment and turn to fish food, giving back to the cycle of life and death as they disintegrate into the waves.”

Definitely an orc, Mirium thought, as she couldn’t remember any of the passages in the holy librams reading so bloodily, but Keelath seemed to grunt his approval from beside her and relax.

“What do you see?” the priest then asked Mirium, for the meditation was not just for calming, but to help her see to the bottom of her persistent anxiety, as well.

Mirium thought about it, taking her time as she listened to the rattling breath of her husband, and thought more warm thoughts about him in the process. Those thoughts drifted dangerously near the chasm created by his brother and her second husband then, but this time, Mirium took a deep breath–several of them, until she no longer felt the need–and let herself slip into the chasm, or not, as her subconscious dictated. Letting the feelings come and go…

There was a knot of shame and fear in there, and as carefully as if she were unknotting yarn for the mending, Mirium picked it apart. Memories of her recent trip to the Outlands swarmed her. Something had gone wrong with the portal, abruptly throwing her and Haljek back in time, to a time when she had lived in the Outlands, accompanying Talthan on his ever-present studies. Though she had not met herself in that timeline, she remembered it as a hard part of her life, of keeping a mask of happiness up for the sake of their daughter, Medyfivol, while feeling her spirits sink lower and lower at the apocalyptic surroundings and Talthan’s increasingly long absences from her side.

She had met the past Talthan in that period of inadvertant timewalking though, and what she learned of what he had really been doing in the Outlands shocked her at the same time it didn’t really surprise her. He had been poisoning her food, amongst other things, mixing a compound into it that had slowly sapped her of any will but that to obey him. Combining that revelation with her old memories, it made a certain, awful kind of sense of the confusion and listlessness she had experienced at the time…

“Mirium,” the priest murmured, calling her mind back to their purpose today.

“I was thinking about food,” Mirium replied, as she was startled.

“I was too,” Keelath growled, and assuming it was just a joke and she still needed time to process what she felt, the priest turned to him.

“What kind of food?” he asked.

Keelath was uncomfortably silent a moment. “Flesh,” he then admitted.

“With the war over, he hasn’t had many good chances to feed,” supplied Mirium.

“She offered I drink from her, and I didn’t like it,” said Keelath, squeezing her hand again. “That is what I was thinking.”

“I see,” said the priest, looking thoughtful. “Tell me, do you need to eat flesh to live?”

Keelath politely coughed.

“Whatever you Forsaken call living. You know what I meant,” said the priest in exasperation.

It was Keelath’s turn to be thoughtful. “Not as such. Magic keeps me going, not nutrition. I use the flesh and blood to replenish my own when I am injured. It is also an urge given to us by the old Lich King, to keep our eagerness for battle intact.”

“But do you need it? Truthfully?”

“I suppose if I was never injured, I wouldn’t,” Keelath muttered. “But there is still the lust for it.”

“But that is just a feeling, isn’t it?” pressed the priest. “Not all Forsaken have to feed to stay sane, so is it only a mental trick?”

“Not all undead were created equal or for the same purpose,” Mirium offered tentatively.

“I was made to kill, and keep killing,” Keelath confirmed darkly.

“But obviously you do more than that,” the orc pointed out, and gestured to their hands, which were still clasped. “You still retain enough of your mind and soul to love, to carry on trying to live a normal life. So what is forcing you to feed? Really?”

Another long stretch of silence passed. Mirium didn’t want to say it, to make real that there wasn’t any way of stopping the bloodlust except to satisfy it, on people willing or at least deserving, as Keelath’s conscience dictated.

But Keelath surprised her. “Nothing,” he said, sounding faintly surprised himself. “It’s just a feeling.”

“And feelings–that are false–can be controlled,” said the priest. “Not without a long time spent practicing, and not without bumps or relapses on the way, but it’s possible. Every time you feel the urge, simply remember this.”

Another silence followed, but this one was poignant. Keelath wasn’t breathing anymore, except in occasional, fitful gasps, probably in between his now-racing thoughts, when he remembered to do so.

“Remember your thoughts and feelings are just that,” the priest said in a soothing tone of voice–or as soothing as an orc gets. “Your attention to them is what defines your experience.” He let another silence go by, until he seemed satisfied Keelath was absorbing the lesson. “And you, Mirium?” he said when he next spoke.

“I’m happy for you,” she said. “For you, Keelath,” she corrected unnecessarily. 

He gave a little huff of air, and Mirium knew him well enough to know it was a huff of agreement. They squeezed hands.

“What else?” the orc pressed, reminding them they had come here for more than just congratulating themselves.

Mirium sighed and let herself slip back into meditation. The knot of shame she had been working on earlier beckoned, but the orc had said not to force such things, so Mirium let it go. Instead she let her thoughts wander, and then she’d wander out of them. Keelath’s hand in hers became lax as he followed whatever thoughts were locked in his maze of a mind as well. Mirium let her awareness of the physical world fade, until the colors and shapes of her emotions filled her mind’s eye instead

They scintillated and danced, swirling this way and that. She was always feeling, all sorts of things, all the time, and she realized this must be part of why she sometimes got so overwhelmed. Though the orc discouraged wallowing, Mirium found she enjoyed soaking in the feelings, at least when they were not pressing on her with the urgency of fulfilling them. Joy seemed a blaze of utter blandness when taken in context with the complicated twists of her anger, or fear, or love. The first blazed especially hot, and she was drawn to it like a moth to a lantern. She passed through it, then, seeing the pits of fear and despair which it covered and protected behind it.

The pits…it was the chasm again, and something was down there, something frightening. A sudden animal sense of being hunted overwhelmed her, but with it came the clarity of thought that let her know she was not just imagining the alien presence. It was the alien presence itself that threatened the bleak overwhelm, that blurred her thoughts and made her think only of destruction and emptiness…

Then, beyond the anger, and tightening all around her and within her, was a warm glow. It felt like love, but she knew what it really was, for she had used it countless times before: the Light. She grabbed hold of it, with a little prayer of thanks for its source, then arrowed it at the dark thing that crouched in the chasm of her traumas.

There was a screech, and the thing fled deeper into the hole, but this was her mind, and ultimately she controlled it. She squeezed the chasm shut, like squeezing juice from the rind of a citrus fruit. The thing had nowhere to run but out, and there Mirium caught it, catapulting it further and then closing the door behind it, sealing it safely shut with the Light.

When she came back to herself, she was shaking with adrenalin. Keelath was now across from her, crouched and wary, and she knew he was both jealous and angry that she had fought a battle which he couldn’t have joined in on. Behind him was the priest, steadying Keelath with a hand on the shoulder, though Mirium could’ve told him that was useless. Keelath would choose to attack or he wouldn’t, and no one hand would be able to stop him when he did.

“Void,” she said in answer to their wordless questions.

“N’Zoth rises,” the orc confirmed quietly. “Are you okay? Is it gone?”

Mirium searched her emotions again. There was the chasm, still bottomless and full of pain and anxious questions, but the walls of it were ragged, as if the claws once gripping them to anchor the monster had now ripped free, and there hadn’t yet been time to make repairs. That would come, Mirium thought with confidence, and surprised herself with feeling that confidence, realizing it was much more solid than the thin, gaseous thing it had been lately.

“Oh, yes, that is me,” she whispered, and just smiled at Keelath when he looked at her blankly. Without the Void eating it from the undersides, it flooded back into her like it was her right. Like the Light. There was still a chasm, but she could bridge it, and eventually reinforce the canyon walls into something more useful…

“The taint is gone,” she said more loudly, “though the fears it was hiding in haven’t, but I think I see now how it was amplifying them. I’ll be okay,” she added, more to reassure her husband than herself.

“I would still prefer you get checked by a priest–one stronger than me,” the orc amended when Keelath raised an eyebrow at him.

“That would be wise,” she conceded.

“Was that what was causing you to be so frantic?” Keelath asked. He was calming, but Mirium remembered from the days of him living that emotions had never been the knight’s strong suit. Deciphering them had always been her talent, and Evelos’.

She paused again, thoughtful as she considered the similarities between herself and her ren’dorei son, including both their tendencies to get too emotional. Keelath eyed her doubtfully, and Mirium pushed the thoughts aside for his benefit.

They could wait.

“I’m fine,” she told Keelath, and reached a hand for his. He took it, and stroked the back of it with his other.

“If you know of someone to refer us to to check for more Void corruption, I would be grateful,” she then told the orc, who nodded and began offering her names.

She and Keelath stared into each other’s eyes as the orc rattled off the names. Though Keelath didn’t blink anymore, the small twitches and flexes of his facial muscles were deeply familiar to her. In them, Mirium read his strength and regard.

“Together,” she reminded him, clasping his hand.

Without a word, as was his way, he closed his hands over hers in agreement. Together.

“At last,” Mirium murmured, closing her eyes. His death, the wars, her own wild feelings, this Void–those things would not hold them apart, and Keelath agreed, with another soft squeeze of her hand.

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