This was originally part of the “Brothers Apart” series. It always felt a bit ungainly to me, as it was describing the aftermath of a bit of roleplay that had gone on in-game. So, as part of the Great Revision, I’ve cut it out and instead put it here.Author’s Note
When Tyrric announced his choice to exile Mirium for helping an agent of Sylvanas, the impact of Keelath’s anger almost swept his sanity away. He had a vague sensation of being able to lie down inside the wave, to let what violence that would happen, happen, and then there would be no one left to blame.
Then with an effort, he was back again. He was Keelath, ex-paladin, not Keelath, undead monster. He wouldn’t give in to the bloodlust. Not now.
He squinted at Tyrric, focusing back on him. Keelath’s thoughts fell over themselves as he tried to put reason to the emotions running like flirting squirrels around his mind. He would probably only come to the right words later when Tyrric was long gone. That tended to be how such things worked, he thought with irony.
Still, he was angry, and angrier still at the dismissive way Tyrric acted towards Keelath’s questioning of his decision. As he stepped closer to Tyrric to make his own points, he heard a noise from Mirium and looked back. She was watching them, eyes bright as if from sudden pain. She seemed to have collapsed inward on herself, the life gone out of her eyes.
From the corner of his eye, Keelath saw Tyrric give them a last look and abruptly turn away, his own wife on his arm, moving too swift to catch. That was probably according to a plan–or just a cowardice. Like the arrogant aristocrat he had become, Keelath thought with scalding disdain, and then shook his head at the newest assault of the bloodlust on his mind. Later, he told himself. Retribution or resolution could come later. Tyrric might have been a vengeful fool, but it was Mirium who needed him now.
Keelath turned firmly around, but Mirium wasn’t there behind him. He glanced about, feeling a drop of dismay in his belly, before he caught a glimpse of her stumbling away down the hall as if she was drunk.
She was practically running, and she had always been swifter than he was–more so now that the chill of undeath slowed his reactions. He only caught up to her outside, when she crashed off the road and into the woods, running blindly into a shrub. She pitched over, and Keelath dove to catch her.
Almost immediately on touching her, her fist slammed into his head with enough force to knock him silly, if he had been alive. She screamed at him, a hopeless, enraged keening. Had reason flown her mind? He had never seen Mirium like this, and it scared him. He quickly wrapped her in his arms and held her, just as much to soothe her as to stop her from hurting either one of them. He had to hold her tightly.
As she continued to struggle, Keelath wondered what had happened to Mirium in the intervening years of his death and raising to break something so vital in her as this. And another low growl of anger escaped him: why would Tyrric choose to pursue punishment for her, knowing it could break her so?
If he knew, Keelath reminded himself. The thought didn’t hold. He must have known, even if only at the moment of his pronouncement and Mirium’s flight from the manor. It was a foul kind of hatred in his brother to pursue thisfor….what purpose? What could it mean?
It was all over something not even true: Mirium aiding Sylvanas’ cause. And after Tyrric had sworn to protect them both, no matter what, even with Keelath’s own service to Sylvanas. Keelath’s thoughts degenerated into a white tangle of anger and betrayal. He’d have to sift through the feelings later for meaning. Surely his brother had a good reason?
He squeezed Mirium and rocked her, willing her to come back to herself even as he put his own thoughts more firmly into the present. “Mirium,” he murmured. “Miri, it’s alright. I’m here, I’m here. It’s your Keelath. It’s alright, and I am here.”
She didn’t relax, but she did finally pivot in his embrace and hug him. Hot wet tears trickled down the front of his jerkin. He sat still, letting the storm blow itself out, until her sobs were quieter than his soothing whispers.
If she slept then, he wasn’t aware of it. It was difficult to predict the sleep cycles of the living now that he was undead. She was quiet and still for a long time, though. The moon passed overhead. Birds chirred in the dusk and then subsided as night fell, replaced by the hum of insects. He kept his thoughts firmly neutral, willing away the hunger for pain and destruction. Eventually, Mirium stirred and looked up at him.
“Is this real?” she asked weakly.
“Unfortunately so,” Keelath answered.
Mirium shivered and pressed to him again. Her voice came out in a broken whimper. “I don’t understand. Why would he do this? It makes no sense.”
“I don’t know,” Keelath answered tiredly, and realized with sudden clarity that he didn’t really want to know. Legitimate concern or yet another convulsion of the jealous game between them: it didn’t matter. Tyrric had gone too far this time, swinging his weight around for the last time that Keelath was going to accept it. Like a petulant six-year-old, he thought, and felt ashamed for him.
For them both, really. “Put it out of your head,” he counseled Mirium. “You didn’t ask for this or deserve it. And it was a dirty trick to invite you to dinner only to drop a figurative mana-bomb on your head. Put it out of your mind.”
“I can’t.” Her voice was very small. “I’ve lost my home. I lost my home because I tried to save you. I don’t understand. I don’t know why he would do this to me. Does he hates me?”
“He doesn’t hate you,” said Keelath, even as he wondered. Why else would Tyrric resort to this instead of putting her on house arrest, if it was truly her loyalties he was concerned about? Even then, Mirium had never served Sylvanas, and Keelath had never reported the tauren he knew Tyrric had been harboring to the Dark Lady himself. To go after his wife for summoning Keelath from danger seemed so petty suddenly in comparison. Another growl escaped Keelath’s throat. That was the betrayal, not whatever nonsense Tyrric had been painting pretty with his teetering logic. Tyrric betrayed Mirium, not the other way around.
An image from their childhood suddenly bloomed in his thoughts: an angry six-year-old smearing mud on Keelath’s fresh-washed dinner jacket because his older brother had beat him at a game of Nine-Stars earlier in the day. Keelath almost laughed at the remembered incident. It seemed applicable to the present, and examining it, Keelath suddenly saw through the outrage to what it was.
Tyrric felt himself the weaker of the brothers and in a vulnerable position–even despite the end of the war, his title, and the respect Keelath had ceded to him. Maybe Mirium had been right, Keelath reflected, and the scar from draining the naaru had become a never-filling hole of inadequacy and shame in his brother.
Well. That wasn’t Keelath’s problem. Not anymore. Not when Tyrric inflicted it on others like he had done to Mirium, for little fault of her own.
Keelath looked down at his once-widow. She had closed her eyes, fist fastened around a fold in his shirt, clinging to him like a babe. Keelath gently worked his thumb under her little finger; she stirred and glanced up at him, then cringed and looked away.
“Why are you frightened so?” he asked her.
She took a moment in answering. Bewilderment was thick in her eyes. “I feel like more trouble than I am worth to you right now.”
It didn’t make sense to him, but he answered the emotion inside it. “Mirium, you are worth the sun and stars to me. Don’t sell yourself so short.”
She glanced at him, a smile at the compliment tremulous across her face, but it fell away too easily. “I’m afraid of losing you,” she admitted. “Or hurting you, because of my own stupidity. I’m afraid of losing my friends and what’s left of my family. It’s in tattering remnants, and all because of me–“
“No,” said Keelath. “We all played a part in that. Remember what I told you in the Barrens? You are not a fool–“
“Then because I made this decision in good faith!” Mirium answered in an angry, hopeless tumble, “and Tyrric, fault-finding, controlling, over-sensitive little Tyrric, chose to throw it all away because of it. Ruin… everything, for me, because he couldn’t face…what? The truth? Is that what you think?”
“You are right to be angry with him, but fighting him won’t do us much good right now,” Keelath advised. “That is what I meant. Put it out of your head. Focus on what we must do now, because it’s the only thing we can do.”
Keelath thought back to the little boy he had helped raise. Punishing Tyrric for the mud incident by sending him to bed with no dinner had just meant a night of Tyrric kicking the adjoining wall of their two bedrooms and screaming until his mother came to comfort him and talk him out of it. Tyrric’s smile at the breakfast table had been particularly smug towards Keelath the next day.
And so that was his wife’s part, Keelath realized. Tyrric’s wife had placated Tyrric because she, too, had grown tired of the screaming. Keelath just shook his head. At least in the six-year-old’s case, their father had intervened to set the boy straight so no further manipulation of the situation could occur, but who could intervene with Tyrric now? As baron, no one but one of the higher lords had the power to overturn his exile of Mirium, and Keelath somehow doubted gaining their allegiance would truly help when Tyrric was so desperately tightening his grip on everything he believed belonged to him.
Yes, Keelath saw it, that oppressive tendency. It chilled him. He wondered if it had always been there and he just hadn’t noticed. Or maybe it was always in everyone, popping out the day they lost their footing and began to fear for their position–
“Then what good will it do? Will anything do?” Mirium’s voice had a budding wail of despair in it as she broke into his thoughts. Keelath squeezed her close.
“Well, we may hurt a while, and then we turn our thoughts to other matters. Let Tyrric have the manor, and good riddance to that cursed place. In the meantime, my people are still at risk, and defending them is what I must do.”
“Your people,” Mirium said bitterly. “The Forsaken? You know I’d never be welcome with them.”
Keelath looked down at her. It was probably true, and not through any fault of Mirium’s own. Another prick of anger, at his wife being exiled for ties she didn’t even have.
“Would you have me break them out of jail with you?” Mirium’s voice had turned mocking and emotionless. It wasn’t pleasant to hear from someone normally so meek. “And why not? If I’m accused of treason, I might as well make it a true accusation. Your comrade Garinus–now he was actually worthy of that term–we could free him together, and they could call us terrorists.”
The anger in her voice stung Keelath, as much as he felt it, too. “We could,” he said carefully, “but I don’t think it wise to let Tyrric’s fears paint your reality for you.” Tell the six-year-old no one was trying to shame him by beating him at Nine-Stars, Keelath thought. Tell the six-year-old that no amount of anger and hurt justified an intentionally cruel act in retaliation. Keelath wondered if Tyrric remembered those lessons, taught by himself and reinforced by their father, those centuries ago.
Mirium only bowed her head, and Keelath thought furiously for alternatives. “I think…we should go back to Orgrimmar,” he finally said. “To check on Garinus, yes…but to also go into service, to fight the Old Gods. You told me you learned how to take up arms, and now this is your chance. We could fight side-by-side, you and I.”
“I would take the place of your brother.”
“Much to his loss, yes,” Keelath said dryly.
That got a tiny smile out of her, that faded again. “You’re a wanted man there, now. You would have to go back in disguise.”
“There are plenty of nameless death knights in full-faced helms. I’ll be fine.”
“I’m not sure ‘plenty’ means what you think it means,” she answered with echoed dryness. “You would have to find a sponsor, someone to speak for you, or they’d just throw us both in jail.”
“I have an idea of whom,” Keelath said carefully. “The Doomguard may take some convincing, but they have both honor and standing. If the war had been different, I might have chosen to serve with them, anyway.”
Mirium just grunted, but the tension of the muscles in her back didn’t seem as great to Keelath’s encircling arms, now.
He nuzzled the top of her head. “Do you feel better, to have a purpose?”
“It’s a withered place inside me,” she answered dully. “All that I tried to build is in ruins.”
“At Tyrric’s manor? For now, maybe. Green will grow over the ashes again, Miri. The phoenix will rise. You have me. We are vowed to one another. That won’t change, no matter how hard things get.”
“Forgive me if I sometimes wonder if that is more curse than blessing,” Mirium spat the words out, like they disgusted her more than they might him.
Keelath put on a smile, as if it had been a joke. They had talked of each others’ misgivings about the re-marriage before and come to resolutions over them all, but the comment still smarted. “If you are broken, so am I,” he reminded her gently. “If you support me, nothing will stand against us.”
Mirium’s eyes flickered up to him. “If you need me, I will be there.” She echoed the old sin’dorei wedding vow he had started. “If we are united, there can be no wrong.” She put her head back on his chest and let out a moaning sigh.
“I won’t let you fall to darkness, and I believe with you at my side, I won’t fall either,” Keelath said softly. “There is no one left for me to serve among Sylvanas’ faithful. Her generals are either imprisoned or missing. Wherever she left for, it is clear she did not need our help, so I won’t dishonor her by tracking her down. My worry is instead for the people caught in the middle, those among the Forsaken who are just trying to find some semblance of the life they once led again. I don’t think it a wrong thing to seek them out and help them, and it might be a blessing to have one of the living’s help, to mend that rift.”
“I will go with you for that purpose,” Mirium agreed quietly. Then she curled closer into him, as if she could disappear.
“You will heal,” Keelath reassured her. “We will all heal.”
Mirium shook her head, and said, “I love you,” with a slight crack to her voice.
“I know you do, and I love you, too,” Keelath answered. He hoped his tone carried the rest of his thoughts to her.
As she settled back into him, dozing again, he recalled again the image of the six-year-old. Anger with Tyrric would do no good, now as then. Calling out the child’s smugness the next morning had only led to a child’s best attempts at logicing his way out of a punishment, promising Keelath that no hurt had been meant (as if it weren’t so obvious that it was!)
Then their father had come in with storming words that silenced their argument. Keelath grimaced at that memory.
“If your brother is petty, then put petty in petty’s place,” he had lectured Keelath. “Are you a child to grapple with him in his mud, or are you an adult above such things?”
“I’m above,” young Keelath had replied indignantly.
“Then…?” And his father had left him to fill in the gap–in both his words and in Keelath’s actions.
Father wasn’t here now, long since passed during the Troll Wars. Nor was there any commanding figure who could or would take Tyrric in hand and smooth out their arguments with each other like he had once. It was up to Keelath to fill in the gap now, on his own.
He looked down. Together with Mirium, he corrected. He would fill in the gap now by not letting Mirium crumble to the traumas that so obviously haunted her. That was an easy decision to make.
The harder decision was to not let his anger at his brother dishonor his loyalty to Sylvanas. That was the basis of their argument, Keelath believed, though there was residue of the brothers’ rivalry in there as well. Keelath had already made his decision as far as Sylvanas was concerned–and even the decision regarding the rivalry, by his refusal to serve Tyrric as his underling at the manor–and even though he couldn’t explain it in words, he felt in his heart his decision was the right one. The others would understand his loyalty in time, or maybe they wouldn’t. Tyrric picking at it and hopping about like a mother bird acting the decoy to her threatened nest wouldn’t change that, and letting himself become troubled by his behavior was a weakness in Keelath’s conviction, not Tyrric’s.
Mirium shifted in his embrace, and he looked down at her. It must have only been a dream, as she relaxed back into him without opening her eyes. She sighed softly, and even in her sleep, it sounded sad.
He felt the first pricklings of the wild emotions he had held away creeping back in–the anger, and behind it, a deep despair. He pushed the feelings back roughly again, not all the way, but only to keep them at a slow trickle. A more distant part of him marveled that he could still feel them at all, instead of the arbitrary bloodlust and pessimism common to the undead.
It must have been the return of his memories that helped him there. Now that he knew what he could stand to lose, he felt more shaken by the events that threatened them. Losing Mirium or losing Tyrric promised hurt, where before, before the regaining of his memories, they had been just another pair of blood elves to him. No wonder some among the Forsaken considered the memories of their living life a weakness.
But Keelath knew–also through memory–that these emotions would not be denied, and it was easier in the long run to feel them through. So he watched them go by. He would miss Tyrric, and he grieved at their current lack of mutual understanding. It was hard to admit to that loss. It was much easier to remain angry–one could shape anger to accomplish most anything, but one couldn’t shape despair. The despair reminded him of his own powerlessness, and that was overlaid with his memory of his service to the Lich King. He had vowed he would never let himself or anyone else be controlled like that again, and never try to control another. Yet there was nothing he could do for the sheer bullheadedness of his brother, and the pain it had caused his wife.
“We’re both scarred,” he reflected to the sleeping Mirium. “We all are scarred. And that is why what happened, happened. That’s the answer you’re looking for, I think, but in order to do that, you have to look at the wounds underneath. And that is painful. I’ll be here to help you, though,” he promised. “In the coming days, perhaps it would also be a good time to speak with that priest you mentioned, so we can both work on our old wounds…”
If she heard him, she didn’t stir. He did feel her arm encircle him a little further, and decided at least some part of her had heard, if only subliminally. He adjusted her position against him–though he wasn’t uncomfortable, he didn’t think that bend of her neck would be pleasant in the morning–and then he settled in to wait for the sun to rise.
In the morning, they would be moving on.