This was originally slotted in with “Brothers Apart”, to help provide contrast for how Tyrric treats his wife vs. how Keelath treats his. At one point of time, it was also meant to depict how Keelath learned how to beat his bloodlust problem, by realizing it’s all in his head, but I didn’t feel like it carried the right weight or came at the right time in this couple’s journey, so here the post now stands in the Deleted Scenes pile.Author’s Note
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.