promises broken, promises kept
(beware spoilers for Episode 80)
Alternative title: “realizations”
“Scanlan, your letter to me was wonderful, and I want to do what you asked, but I can’t raise Kaylie alone. I need you to come back.” -Pike Trickfoot, Critical Role, Episode 80
He gives her the letter in her room in the mansion. Her extravagant room that is far too much for her usual simple way of living, but which fits Scanlan very well, and she can’t help but smile at its coziness.
When her door closes behind him, it’s a spur-of-the-moment decision. It’s not necessarily what she wants to do, but after everything that happened she can’t bring herself to wait.
She reads the letter, and her heart hurts, and she can’t help the hot tears that flow down her cheeks.
A day later- two days? (It all blurs together with the looming threat of the black dragon looming over them from the mountainside.) There’s the fight with Kevdak and the Herd, and while she can’t move fast enough to get over to her friends, at the end of the battle she sings a young boy back to life, and they bring him home, and she sees something in Scanlan’s face - a longing? a determination? a resolve? - that she hasn’t seen there before.
(Briefly, she wonders what sort of spell or attack had missed its target and sent the boy into the realm of the Raven Queen, and if Scanlan knows more than she does.)
The words of the letter, small snippets and disconnected words, fly through her mind until they fight the dragon and their bard disappears into the beast’s stomach.
Then the words disappear with him, like she has suddenly forgotten how to speak, to even think.
(How could they have been so stupid?)
He disappears, and Pike realizes she doesn’t know if she can do what he wants her to.
But they survive, all of them, and they congregate in the black dragon’s lair, relatively safe, and she wants to talk to him, to confess her sins, to apologize, but she can’t bring herself to.
(She realizes she’s never even met Kaylie before…)
They have a cannonball contest in the basement of the mansion, and they laugh and joke and Pike wraps up her fears and insecurities tightly, binding them to her heart, because they have, at the very least, one more night. A night where they can relax and recoup and, thankfully, not count their losses.
The next day, when Scanlan says he’s going to Kymal to check on the refugees (Kaylie), Pike agrees to go with him.
Part of her feels that she should stay and help the rebuilding efforts in Westruun (her home for so many years), but another, stronger, part of her realizes she has to go with him. She successfully convinces herself, as Scanlan has convinced himself, that it is to check on the refugees, those who had fled. But there’s a tiny corner of her mind that is not fooled, that knows her own artifice is but a mask, a duty.
(Meeting Kaylie with him - it’s the least she can do, when he’s trusting her with such an important task.)
For a moment she realizes he has no idea that she even read the letter-
Scanlan takes Kaylie aside and she’s too busy taking care of Doctor Dranzel’s foot to catch all of what they say, but she hears the familiar syllable of her name and the curiosity tugs sharply at her heart even as the Doctor invites her to join them on their troupe’s journey.
Their banter dips into silence just as Kaylie says “Get out of my fucking face,” but as the two gnomes, so similar in face and standing, come up to them, there’s a connection that wasn’t there before.
(Pike has always been good at picking up on connections. Her heart smiles.)
Doctor Dranzel offers again for her to come with them, and she says, simply, “I don’t think I can.”
(There’s a lot she doesn’t say, about people counting on her, about the strange mish-mash of a family and one bard in particular to whom she has made promises in her heart of hearts. “I can’t leave my family right now” is what her hearts says.)
He gives her a look that says he knows what she’s thinking, but he plays off the look, transitioning to talking about moving on.
She pulls Kaylie aside; she needs to meet this daughter, this young woman that Scanlan would give his life for.
Pike introduces herself, and Kaylie tells her: “he made a promise.”
Her mind races, the letter in her pocket seeming to burn with its own heat, and she wonders for a moment, but she sees the determination in Kaylie’s eyes, and she realizes just what his promise to his daughter was.
She wants to hate Scanlan Shorthalt in that moment, to have him razed by the gods for giving her this choice to make, to fulfill his dying wishes or to help him keep his promise to his daughter.
(She can’t bring herself to do so, because she knows that Kaylie is still young, still in need of the hope that a promise of life will bring. Pike doesn’t agree with Scanlan, but she does understand.)
Still, as she looks into the still-teary eyes of the gnome before her, the letter heavy in her pocket and thoughts running riotously through her head, she finds her mouth moving and her tongue forming the words that she knows are, ultimately, true.
“I’ll make sure he keeps it.”