Part of the What You Leave Behind Arc
Summary: Meri drops by the bakery for a visit to catch up with Khitti and, unfortunately, leaves Khitti with a bad feeling and a lot of worry.
Ginger Snapped Bakery and Sweetshop, Cenril
Today was a slow day for business, but Khitti was grateful for it. The various cases of sweets and baked goods were as full as they could make it and the shop as sparkling clean as it was ever going to get. Victoria and Albert, one of the waitresses and the cake decorator/sugar sculptor was making lovey dovey eyes at each other at one of the tables for two away from everyone else, while the rest of the waitstaff and bakers talked amongst themselves in a group elsewhere. Their boss lady, however, was nursing a cup of ginger lemon tea with honey by herself, her feet propped up on a chair, the teacup itself settled on top of her ever-expanding stomach. There wasn’t going to be much money brought in today, unfortunately, but they all needed the break once in awhile.
Slow days definitely mean there will not be much money made that day, they were indeed great for breaks, or for unexpected visitors. Cue Meri's entrance. The door opens and someone steps inside. This someone is tall and blonde who usually wears her tattoos proudly but today the bulk of them are covered by a flannel and her hair. No one jump up too fast, it is just Meri. Victoria and Albert are safe from interruption, as is the rest of the waitstaff. Meri did not have an interest in approaching them, it was the woman sipping ginger lemon tea that Meri was after today. Any of the staff that acknowledged Meri would be greeted with a nod but she'd not distract them when her entire goal was to distract Khitti. Meri approaches and a hand comes to rest on the back of a chair, one stationed across from Khitti....and not the one that Khitti's feet were propped up on. "Hey you," comes Meri's opener. "Thought I would drop in and pay you a visit." A half-smile crosses Meri's lips, lips that are absent that pop of red. "This an okay time for me to snag a seat?" It certainly seemed like yes, but Meri did not know Khitti's schedule. She could just be on a lunch break, might have an appointment. Who knows!
The bell over the door rung with Meri’s entrance, but when it was made clear that she was making a beeline for Khitti, the others left her in peace. Khitti sat up, dropping her feet to the floor, and eyed Meri carefully. “Of course.” Things were different, noticeably different and it made Khitti’s heart sink a little. “Are you alright? Do you want some tea? Something to snack on? It’s all on the house obviously because duh.” She motioned towards all of the cases; practically any sweet Meri could think of was there. “I’ve gotten a lot of compliments about our mural. A friend of mine, someone that was in the Necromancer’s Guild with me, she really loved it. She said she knows you too; her name is Celaeno. She works here from time to time.”
"Yeah. Tea sounds good. Something to snack on, sure" Cheesecake. Chocolate something. Muffins. Whatever was Khitti was serving here, Meri would undoubtably enjoy it. But Meri wasn't going to make Khitti get up and get it, wasn't it cruel and unusual punishment to make a preggo get to her feet for such things. "I'll get up and grab it though. Do you want anything?" Meri did not see fit to trouble the waitstaff either, unless Khitti insisted. She was not a paying customer, so she did not mind grabbing her own items. If Meri was left to grab the items for herself and perhaps Khitti, there would be a small break in conversation. Not a long one, nor was it one of her ploys to bid time to keep from having to talk. The conversation would flow on at some point regardless, "Am I alright? Yeah. Why wouldn't I be alright..." Spoken like she was trying to convince her own self of this. "I'm glad to be home and I am glad to see so many familiar faces, but...well things are definitely different. Which is normal. Life goes on. It would be foolish for me to expect everything to remain the same, but I would be lying if I said that I felt a little disconnected in ways." Meri only brief pause, lips twitching into a frown. "I mean look how much has changed with you...You are further along since I last saw you. You said that you lost your magic...?" Meri's voice lowers for that last sentence. She was not sure how open Khitti was being with that and she has learned that Khitti values her privacy as well. Blue eyes flicker to that mural. "We put a lot of work into this mural, I am glad to know that people are enjoying it. And I do know Celaeno, we have talked about you, actually. She got a tattoo from me before..."
Khitti tilted her head at Meri, then nodded, “Yeah, sure. Go for it. Kitchen’s back there,” she added with a jerk of her thumb towards the obvious door to the other room. “And, uh… no thanks. I was already snacking on some truffles. If I eat too many sweets, I might get a lecture from Lennier or something. I don’t particularly need to put on anymore weight what with the baby coming soon.” She let Meri go off and stared pensively at her teacup until she returned. “Why wouldn’t you be alright…? Meri, you were there for almost a month. By yourself. You just… look different, at least.” Khitti quickly shook her head, “Not in a bad way though. Just. Different.” The tea was swirled around a bit, absently, as Khitti dwelled on the blonde’s words. She -had- changed too. “Yeah, but... “ Khitti let out a sigh, then took a sip of her drink. “Facilier did take away my magic, but it doesn’t matter,” was said at length without Khitti bothering to lower her voice. “I have something else now--something that’s better.” She could go about spewing the stuff about ‘hope’ and ‘light’ that she’d been preaching to Brand and Lionel, but in many ways Meri was like the two of them: cynical and whatnot. So, she’d save it, at least, for later depending on Meri’s reaction. “Seika, come here.” None of the waitstaff stood up; it wasn’t a person that came over to them, but a sword. A katana, specifically, with a golden aura and the symbol of Cyris etched onto its sheath. It floated its way over to the table and set itself down on the wooden surface between the two women. “Pretty much since I’ve been back, and even moreso after you were gone, I started praying to the gods for help--practically any of them besides Vakmathras and Delisha. Well, begging and pleading was more like it, but… There was a fight in Craughmoyle that I went to, to get my mind off of things, and this sword was to be given to the winner. It’s called Tenbatsu Kaji. It chose me. It came to me, rather than be given away to someone else. A holy sprite of Cyris lives inside it and she’s been helping me train.” Khitti let that sink in, as well as it could before she mustered a faint smile, “Cel is definitely a good person. I trust her. She was there for me after we thought we lost you. She reminds me a lot of me and I’m not really sure if that’s a good thing or not.”
To the kitchens and back with Meri, with a bit of tea and a slice of that cheesecake with the chocolate that she is craving. The blonde indulges in little bites while Khitti explains everything that she has been up to as of late. Her attention is more on Khitti than it is either cheesecake or tea combined. "Yeah. I was out there by myself," Meri concedes in a soft murmur. "It was not exactly a great experience. I knew you guys would do everything you could if you could to get me home, but it was still trying...to say the least." Meri baby blues drop to the sleeve of her flannel before lifting back up to Khitti. "And yeah, I guess I do look a little different. I was feeling a little lazy today." Which is not too unusual for Meri. Usually when she is feeling hungover, sad, hurt, sick, or not up to par then she'll go with a more comfortable outfit, swapping out the corset for some form of button down. "I'm trying though." Meri shrugs and shifts the subject away from herself. Khitti was explaining some very important things to Meri. Facilier has taken Khitti's magic away and that earns a brief frown as a reaction but it is short-lived when Seika takes to the scene. "Seika. The name of your sword? And praying to the gods..." Khitti is regarded with a studious look. It's not like Meri minded if the redhead has found a more righteous path, but this was a major change. "Maybe this is what you need to finally deal with Facilier once and for all. It is hard to fight him with the magic that he has given you...this is not from him. And the timing could not have come any better." Losing her magic, but gaining a sword. "I thought you and Celaeno were a lot alike as well, I would hardly say that is a bad thing." Even if Khitti seems to have a run of bad luck, she is adored by her friends.
Khitti studied Meri when she came back and offered her excuse as to why she looks so damn odd today, but Khitti soon nodded at length, “Alright, if you’re sure.” Maybe she really -was- alright--as well as she could be anyway. “Mm, no. The sword’s named Tenbatsu Kaji. Seika is the name of the sprite inside it. I hope it -is- what we need, but that doesn’t mean I’m not skeptical. I am, but it’s not towards the sword or the gods. They’ve done what they can. Now it’s up to me, unfortunately, but I’m working on it. I can only train so much when I’m as big as a whale.” She shrugged at this though and sipped her tea.
Meri studies Khitti while Khitti studies her. If they were not already mid-conversation, Meri might have felt compelled to break the silence/the study with some sort of entirely awkward gesture like a cough. Why? Meri felt a little bit like Khitti was trying to tap into those magical mom-powers she is developing to figure out if Meri is lying or not. Watch out, kid. It does not stop there. If Khitti gets -really- good she'll grow a set of eyes in the back of her head. If that happens, so screwed, kid. So screwed. That momdar. "I'm trying to figure my way, some days are easier than others. I'm happier to see some faces than others. Some faces are happier to see me than others. It has been an interesting time being back. But it's not like Facilier got a hold of me or anything particularly wicked." Meri frowns. "I don't think." Now Meri clears her throat, and sucks down a mouthful of her tea, and then does not keep the subject on her. "Seika is easier to remember. I think I will just keep calling the sword Seika so long as it has a spirit inside of it." I think, because Khitti still has room to state her preference for otherwise. Seika was so much easier to remember though. "You are not big as a whale. Just pregnant. Either way, you are going to need time. Time to push that baby out, then time to recover. Has everything been quiet on that front for the most part?"
Khitti’s mom-senses were definitely tingling more as of late. Imagine if she -did become a paladin? She’d be a mom-adin and evil would quake in their boots. Evil and children. And Brand. Especially Brand. “Seika’s fine. I don’t expect you to remember elvish anyway--I certainly don’t.” She cringed at the thought of ‘pushing that baby out’, “I’d almost opt to have the kid cut out of me like some women have to have if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d almost certainly probably turn into something resembling that LydiaAmarrah monster. I, uh, don’t do well with knives or needles and such--I’m sure you recall me telling you that when we first met and you gave me my first tattoos.” Khitti’s pale skin suddenly looked a little paler at the thought. “I don’t feel like I have time, though. I have plans. And Kahran is still doing his things. I can’t even go on the Shadow Plane mission because of this. Even if I wasn’t pregnant, I’m not even sure Brand and Lionel would let me go. They’re both still a little… hesitant at times, when it comes to letting me do things. Because I’m mortal now.” There’s a pause and a shrug. “Facilier tried to take the kid forcibly again recent, when we were in Larket for a brief pilgrimage of sorts to Cyris’ chapel. Seika helped, of course. But…” Khitti frowned. She wanted to mention the part about Onyx and all the things that came with that, but she wasn’t sure if she should. Facilier was always watching, even now. It was something that Meri knew full well, even if Khitti didn’t know that she knew. “Other than that, things have been fine. I think Brand’s actually ready to be a dad. He’s made some baby gates and the crib and such. There’s so many other things going on that I don’t know if I can handle it all.”
Meri actually weighs the options for a split second, c-section versus birthing. The verdict is not favorable for a c-section, her concerns about that one are grim and graphic...Khitti is spared those details as Meri is given the reminder that she is not a fan of knives and needles. This was a detail that Meri forgot, with decent excuse. Khitti always conducted herself well during their tattooing sessions, also with reason. "I don't know that either option is really all that pleasant. However, the little one is coming one of those ways and I am sure whomever you picked for the birthing will be prepared." Meri has half a mind to assure Khitti that everything will go smoothly, but she also does not want to jinx Khitti. Meri's fork digs into the cheesecake and another bite is taken into her mouth. There are a couple seconds for chewing, but the blonde still ends up chatting away with her mouth half full. "You're mortal but you're still capable." She swallows fully now. "But I guess the hesitance is not misplaced. It makes it obvious they care." News that Facilier has attempted to take the baby from Khitti again brings Meri to frown. And Meri was indeed aware that Facilier was always watching, this was clearly spelled out to her, which is why she is just as mindful with her own words. "We'll deal with Facilier yet...but in the meantime? If there is anything that I can help you with? From baby room set up?" Though it seemed like Brand had a pretty decent handle on that. "To...whatever. Just let me know. I've not been around the shop much lately, got a decent chunk of free time on my hands. I'm happy to help."
Khitti might be a mite more sensitive about the knives and such these days. That’s Emrith’s fault. And the fact that she’s mortal now. They probably wouldn’t find out how severe or not it’d be unless Khitti ever got another tattoo though, but the thought of it makes her a little nervous. Could just be those mom instincts though flaring up because of the pregnancy. Who knows. “Help with the room would be nice. I was thinking an ocean theme there, but that might be a little redundant considering we could literally take it outside to see the ocean. Maybe a forest? I’m not sure. I’ll talk to Brand. I don’t know if he’s got any opinions about it or not. He’s not exactly artistically-inclined, but it -is- his ship, so. If you get any ideas, you could always work them up as sketches and bring them to us, yeah?” Khitti seemed eager to see whatever Meri came up with. “We could paint the furniture Brand’s put together to match it too. If you wanted something else to do besides artwork though, Brand and I have a mission coming up that Lionel gave us. No Shadow Plane nonsense. It’s strictly recon.” Khitti finished off her tea and sat up straight in her chair. “Oof. This kid needs to get out soon, whatever we do. I don’t think there’s any more room in there for them to grow.” She paused and leaned forward, around the side of the table, “C’mere. Gimme your hand.”
Khitti might be eager, but Meri was going to disappoint on the creativity front today. When they were discussing the babyshower, Meri was clearly bubbling with those artistic ideas. Khitti was not going to be refused though. "Yeah, I could do up some sketches. But it would help you talked to the Captain to see if he has opinions. A forest theme would be fun. A lot could be done with that." As Meri mulls over other possible themes, she offers Khitti up her hand. The redhead could do almost whatever she wanted with it and Meri would be compliant. "Alphabet and numbers theme. That is a theme that will be grown out of but it will be all educational and such, and by the time they grow out of that you will have a better sense of what sort of things the kiddo will be into? A is for apple? B is for Bumblebee?" The fact that this was the only other suggestion that came from Meri could be dismissed by the fact that Khitti had her hand, Meri was curious to see what she was going to do with it. Which meant she was not going to talk up a storm. It was obvious that, regardless of what idea they settled on, that Meri was willing to help -- that was most important.
“I think all of that is wonderful. We’ll sort it out soon. Even if it doesn’t happen until after the kid is born, that’s fine too. Things have been rather busy lately between training with Seika and meetings with Lionel, and everything else, and I don’t want you to have to jump right in and feel rushed. Brand and I haven’t even been able to talk much about the wedding either, besides coming up with a last name and possible names for the baby.” Khitti -did- dismiss Meri’s lack of creativity as something other than what it was. Maybe she was tired. Maybe she wasn’t feeling creative today--hell, Khitti didn’t always feel in the mood to draw or write. Maybe she was entirely distracted by the fact that Khitti had her hand and was bringing it towards her stomach. The baby was kicking up a storm as it tended to do and Meri was finally here to feel it! “If you didn’t know it was me carrying this kid, I think you’d be able to tell who its parents were just by feeling all of this movement. I think they’re definitely going to be like the rest of their family when it comes to fighting. It’s definitely getting close to time for this bun to get out of the oven too. I’ve been having contractions. Not labor ones obviously, but Lennier said they’ll get stronger as it gets closer to ‘go time’.” Khitti grinned mischievously as she waited for Meri’s reaction, “Brand thought it was weird initially. Said it was like trying to keep a feral cat in a bag.”
Meri was tempted to shrug but Khitti has the blonde’s hand pressed to her belly and so the gesture would be an awkward one. “Like I said. I have plenty of free time these days so it is no rush for me. When and if you guys are ready for decorating, you know how to get ahold yeah of me.” Meri finds a moment to cast Khitti a smile, one that lingers on her lips as she feels the little one moving around inside of Khitti’s stomach. Meri was feeling a mix of emotions right now, that mix was about ninety-percent full of positive feelings and ten percent negative. None of those negatives will be expressed to Khitti. Meri focuses on the overwhelming positive. “I don’t know about a feral cat. More like a spastic little fishy, which may be more fitting of a comparison given your love for mermaids.” Meri was not sure if contractions like that were normal, she was not the sort of woman who has done her research in that are. “I guess contractions mean that time is coming...one way or another. There is a lot going on and it will be a stressful adjustment to add into the mix but you and Brand will both be great parents and you two will both be very happy. I am convinced.”
Khitti would release Meri’s hand with a smirk, “Yeah, it’s all getting ready, I guess. Apparently I don’t really do much besides just carry the kid. ‘Nature will eventually do the work for you’ is what Lennier said.” She shrugged and settled back into her chair, “So, I’ve been doing a lot of the talking and you’re the one that came here to me. What’s been going on with you? Just coming back to check in or has something come up?” She wasn’t sure if Meri actually had something specific she wanted to talk about and didn’t want to take up all her time rattling off stuff about the baby and every other thing in the known universe that she’d been doing lately.
“Checking makes me feel like it is an obligation. Catching up.” Those lips curve up into a brief smirk following this correction that is meant to be playful. “I would hope there is a lot of talking while catching up. It’s not usually a good sign when people do not know what to say to each other. Like I said, there is not too much going on with me. A lot of free time because I am not at the shop nearly as much. I don’t see the point. I mean, I know what the point is but...Arranging lessons, tattooing, wine. Why did I think it was a good idea to let people paint while drinking wine?” Meri shrugs. “I admittedly am half contemplating closing it down. Larket’s reputation has suffered so much that more people are leaving than coming in. Frankly I am starting to wonder if Larket is going to continue to be the place for me at the rate that everything seems to be going.” A less than happy point that is punctuated with a bite of her cheesecake. “A lot to consider, and I want to procrastinate on making those considerations, admittedly. What about that mission you mentioned?”
Khitti’s lips mirrored Meri’s smirk. As the blonde spoke, however, the grin slowly faded as Meri admitted to not being at the shop and possibly wanting to close it down. “What? No. You shouldn’t do that. Move it, maybe, but don’t shut it down entirely.” A beat. “Unless that’s what you really want, I guess. And you did the wine and painting thing because it’s fun and a way to relax people, so they can have a good time.” The redhead looked visibly concerned now, those brows of hers all scrunched together. She dwelled on things for a moment, then shrugged, “You could always re-open it here. With Uma running the show in Cenril, I may not know any of the witches personally, but they all seem like decent people--especially if they’ve got Lionel fighting for them.” Her mind was fixed on the witches and Lionel and Lionel’s emerald skull and Meri’s lack of ambition to keep her shop open until she realized Meri asked a question, “Oh. Right. The mission. It’s been a little while since I’ve been to Chartsend. Brand’s been delivering to Rynvale for the past few weeks, since I’ve got the bakery here and with the baby coming and all. He doesn’t want to be too far away. There’s an island not far from Chartsend apparently and weird stuff is going on. Strange lights and whatnot. No one’s delivered to Chartsend and Venturil from the sea in weeks because of it and there’s rumors that it might be Kahran’s doing, so we’re being sent to investigate. It should -just- be recon, but knowing our luck it could end up being something more--especially if it -is- Kahran’s forces.”
"Yeah. I suppose that Cenril is a consideration. I have had the chance to meet and work with a couple of the witches, they are all pretty good people from what I have seen. Lionel's efforts in fighting for them are definitely not misplaced, but I didn't need to say that. You already know that, I am sure. Lionel and I were at the same meeting, not that long ago, with Uma and a bunch of the others..." The subject of this mission is not one that is as quickly forgotten by Meri, she was the one asking the question. A brow is lifted as she listens to the explanation. "Well it is good that Brand stays close." Meri says first, "Sailors are a superstitious yet fairly crazy lot." Khitti knows, she made a baby with one. "So if they are saying things are weird enough that they do not even want to deliver, then it's probably pretty damn weird." The blonde pauses. "And I suppose it is always smart to assume that every recon mission may end up turning into something more..." Especially with this group's luck, which could be worse...they usually at least manage to overcome the adversity. "Anyway, I think I'm game to come along. It'll keep me busy and I haven't been out in the direction of Chartsend since..." Meri tries to recall. "I think since shortly after I learned you came back to us. I ran into Pilar there. I think it'll be good for me."
Khitti merely shrugged as Meri assumed she knew about the witch meeting, “I’m not sure how I feel about it, really. Both him and Brand were up in arms about the sword because ‘oh no, it’s a sword from the gods--this has to be bad!’. But, the instant he gets a powerful witch implement that lets him see the spirit of a dead girl every so often--like at this last meeting where he handed out the missions--I’m supposed to be okay with it. It feels really… one-sided. I don’t even know if that’s the word for it. It feels weird and the less I’ve got my nose in it, then probably the better. Seika could see her too. Told me what she symbolizes basically and that’s great that Lionel wants to finally get some inspiration from -somewhere- but…” Khitti shrugged again, and this time there was a frown. With a shake of her head, she cut that thought short, and went on to Chartsend, “It’s been awhile since I’ve been there too. I’m sure things’ll be fine… and if it isn’t? We’ll deal with it like we always have with everything else.”
Guilty as charged! Meri had assumed that Khitti had known about the meeting. This assumption is not knocked out of Meri's mind but the subject is not one that Meri is quick to let go of. A brow is lofted faintly as she listens to Khitti's frustrations about the sword and the skulls. "Well." Meri's voice softens considerably, At first it might seem like she was adopting that soft tone because she was about to speak some sort of argument in favor of Brand and Lionel's logic? "I don't know much about Seika. And I do not know much about those skulls. But." There it is, that but, this is where Meri is going to agree with them right? Maybe, except those blue eyes start watering up just a little bit. "I've seen my own spirit of a dead girl recently...More than seen her...I have talked to her. I knew her, that Valrae Baines." Meri is trying to not make the assumption that they are seeing the same woman, but the dots are slowly connecting themselves. "What she told me when we talked is that the skulls are dangerous. So the little that I do know about the skulls...They are hungry." Meri frowns, for it was not easy to confess seeing the ghost of a dead friend, nor to explain that the artifact that another friend has is dangerous. "It is going to have to be dealt with...But after she is back. Which means we should watch Lionel, but decorating the baby room and this expedition to Chartsend will have to come first."
Khitti knew, but just the bare details: Lionel went to talk to witches and it was about those skulls. She didn't even want to know -that-. It all turned her stomach just a bit. Her stomach turned even more when Meri mentioned that she too saw Valrae and warned her about the skulls. This prompted a worried frown--the same sort of worried frowns that was always planted on her face before her death. “That's who he saw. ‘Valrae’.” She wanted to say more, to ask more about what they were all planning to do. Khitti had one of those bad feelings of hers and it was written all over her face. She didn't ask though. She all but swallowed her tongue in an attempt to keep her thoughts to herself. Khitti looked away from Meri, eyeing first her employees, and then the mural that her and Meri worked so hard on. “Yes. Focus on the mission. And the baby.” Her words mirrored Meri’s in agreement, but she was really trying to tell herself that more than anything. One by one, things were starting to pile up again for Khitti, and she wanted to cry, but she didn't dare do it here.
Two chicks sitting in a bakery, both looking all teary-eyed over the path that their talk has taken. Meri felt horrible, she never enjoyed seeing Khitti cry, not that she was really yet but still...Khitti looks away from Meri, first to her employees, and then to the mural. "I'm sorry," Meri murmurs, "I wasn't trying to upset you or anything." In hindsight it seems so trite sounding now that Meri has spoken it out loud, even if it was true. It seemed worse to withhold the information from Khitti though, especially given the mistrust that she voiced. Meri did not want to give Khitti false promises that they would get through it. She hoped that they would but how could they know? "All we can do it take it day by day..." Tattooed hands press against the table, helping to push Meri up to her feet. It wasn't for the door just yet, but over to Khitti to pull her into a hug. As best as Meri can at least, she was sitting, there was a belly in the way. "Send a note. Baby or Chartsend. Whenever you are ready. I will be there."
Khitti nodded, returning the hug. She gave her surrogate sister a tight squeeze, as if to say ‘I missed you’, and then let her go off about her business. “Yeah. I’ll let you know.” She forced a smile, to show that she was alright, then pushed herself up out of the chair she’d been sitting in all this time. “Hey, guys,” she’d say to her employees as Meri left, “Go grab lunch, get the rest of the food put away in the ice box, and go take the rest of the day off.” It wasn’t an unusual thing to do--Khitti’d done it before when the tide of customers was really low--but it was also a needed thing right now. She wanted to go home, to rest and talk to Brand about those crystal skulls and to try not to worry.